Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Bizarre News

Wildlife sanctuary operator in Tampa hospital after saving rhino from wildfire

TAMPA — A wildlife sanctuary operator who saved a rhinoceros from a fire Friday is recovering at Tampa General Hospital after sustaining second-degree burns on 18 percent of his body, his doctors and fire officials said.

Donovan Smith, co-owner of NGALA Wildlife Preserve on Inez Road, was listed in fair condition after surgery Tuesday afternoon, spirits buoyed by the rescues of a leopard, a Florida panther and Walter, the 8-year-old, 5,000-pound white rhinoceros he has raised from infancy.

Smith, who helped start the refuge 15 years ago, managed a smile in a photo he posted to his Facebook page Friday while traveling to Tampa General.

"NGALA staff teamed together today to save all the animals! The structures and facilities fared well, the property is burned pretty bad, Mother Nature will rebound," Smith wrote.

Staff at the preserve were successful in safely evacuating the giraffe, leopard and more than 40 other animals minutes before the massive fire reached the facility. But Walter and the cats refused to get on the trailer that would take them to safety and were scared by the fire trucks and helicopters used to fight the fire, according to accounts from the hospital and a GoFundMe page.

Smith stayed behind with the animals. He later told his doctors at TGH that most of his burns came while driving a four-wheeler through the facility as the fire closed in on Walter's enclosure.

"I raced through a literal funnel of fire," Smith told a hospital spokeswoman. "You could see the skin blistering on my arms and legs."

Smith stayed with the rhino, calming him down and hosing the enclosure while a fire truck put out the blaze. The fire, which may have been sparked by a lawn mower Thursday afternoon, destroyed at least nine homes and triggered mandatory evacuations for more than 7,000 residents, the North Collier Fire Rescue District reported.

No other animals, or people, were known to be injured in the rapidly moving blaze, according to the fire rescue district.

Smith's friends created a GoFundMe page on Friday, calling it the Donovan Smith Medical Fund, and by Tuesday had reached more than half of a $35,000 goal.

The post included photos of Smith with heavily blistered skin. Updates showed him bandaged and in a hospital bed.

"Get well," wrote Greater Naples Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Christian Tobin, pitching in $250. "You did a heroic job helping us get to Walter! We helped the tortoise too."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

   
Comments
Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Jackpot winner and Florida man Shane Missler wants to leave behind a legacy with his winnings.But he won’t be doing that by doling out cash to Twitter followers.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida man, 20, claims $450M Mega Millions jackpotAn account cunningl...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Florida man robbed at gunpoint in dating app setup

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Florida police say a man thought he was going on a date set through an app, but instead was attacked and robbed at gunpoint.Police say a 21-year-old Taborice Lee Foster lured his target using Grindr, a dating app for gay men. When...
Published: 01/14/18
Tide Pod Challenge: Why teens and internet celebs risk their lives by eating them

Tide Pod Challenge: Why teens and internet celebs risk their lives by eating them

A new internet trend has parents worrying more about their teenagers ingesting laundry soap than their unknowing toddlers. It started as a joke: memes circulating on the web, poking fun at the fact that the squishy, brightly colored laundry pods loo...
Published: 01/12/18

Bathroom behavior got this Florida man kicked off his flight

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Frequent flyer tip: if you’re going to use the airplane bathroom make sure your aim is good. Otherwise it could get you kicked off the flight.Flight attendants say Dante Bencivenga used the bathroom on a Spirit airlines flight befo...
Published: 01/07/18
Florida man calls 911 to report...himself drunk driving

Florida man calls 911 to report...himself drunk driving

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in Florida are sharing an unusual 911 call they got on New Year’s Eve from a man who said he was driving drunk and needed police. Polk County Sheriff’s officials say the dispatcher "did a fantastic job" urging Mi...
Published: 01/06/18
A small bird managed to take over a Delta flight

A small bird managed to take over a Delta flight

On late Saturday morning, a bird flew out of the cold Detroit sky, across an airfield and into the cockpit of a jetliner bound south for Atlanta.Some believe it was a sparrow. Some, a hummingbird. A Delta Air Lines spokesman referred to it only as "s...
Updated one month ago
Woman gets $284 billion electric bill, wonders whether it’s her Christmas lights

Woman gets $284 billion electric bill, wonders whether it’s her Christmas lights

What can you buy with $284 billion?You could own all of Netflix. Or purchase 747 Boeing 747s, with change to spare. Or erase the national debts of Venezuela, Nigeria, Peru and Iceland, combined.Or, if you’re Mary Horomanski, you could pay for one mon...
Updated one month ago
Package for Steven Mnuchin that causes a bomb scare turns out to be filled with horse manure

Package for Steven Mnuchin that causes a bomb scare turns out to be filled with horse manure

A suspicious package that appeared Saturday night in the swanky Los Angeles neighborhood of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prompted lengthy street closures and a sizable response by local and federal authorities, including members of the Los Angel...
Updated one month ago

Florida man fighting for his life after chasing monkey

DESTIN, Fla. — A Florida man now living in Bali is fighting for his life after he fell from a roof while chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Pittsburgh Steelers cap.The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that Jeff "Swede" Swedenhjelm fel...
Updated one month ago
Florida man arrested for calling 911 to complain about small restaurant portions

Florida man arrested for calling 911 to complain about small restaurant portions

STUART, Fla. — A Florida man complaining about his dinner to police has landed in trouble.The 51-year-old man was charged with misusing the emergency 911 line after he called dispatchers twice to complain about the size of the meal served to him at C...
Updated one month ago