New child protector pledges case reviews
Hillsborough County's new child protector introduced herself to Tampa on Tuesday, pledging to review all active child dependency cases to ensure none have slipped through the cracks. Lorita Shirley is the executive director of Eckerd Youth Alternatives, the lead child protection agency in Pinellas County. Her agency replaces Hillsborough Kids Inc. on July 1. She appeared Tuesday at a news conference with David Wilkins, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families. The change comes in the wake of nine deaths in the past two years of Hillsborough children whose families were under state supervision. Shirley started her child welfare career with the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, working in child abuse investigations and foster care. She also oversaw child welfare services for the DCF in Osceola County.
Two African penguin chicks hatched at zoo
Two lovebirds at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo have hatched a pair of chicks, who were unveiled just in time for Valentine's Day. The baby African penguins hatched Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 and became the first pair to be born to the same parents during a single breeding cycle at the zoo. It's too early to tell if the chicks are male or female, zoo officials said. The chicks will remain with their parents, Amber and Violet, for the next few weeks before being transferred to zookeepers' care, under which they will learn how to swim before rejoining the penguin colony on display. Amber and Violet have joined the ranks of two other couples — Thumbelina and Flannigan, and Tinkerbell and Loki — who have successfully hatched offspring in the past year. Like penguins in the wild, the African penguins at the zoo are believed to mate for life.
Driver loses control, lands in Intracoastal
Deputies are investigating how a 28-year-old woman and her Ford Explorer ended up in the Intracoastal Waterway off Alt. U.S. 19 Tuesday afternoon. The incident happened about 3 p.m. near the 600 block of Edgewater Drive. Nicole L. Glazier of Clearwater was driving north on Edgewater in a 2001 Ford Explorer when she tried passing another vehicle in the southbound lane, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. She lost control, struck a curb, drove across a grassy area and into water that was about 4 feet deep. John Thorington, 53, of Palm Harbor, saw the accidednt and pulled Glazier from the vehicle. She was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover.
Couple injured while fleeing apartment fire
Two people were hurt escaping a fire that ravaged their apartment early Tuesday. The fire began just after 3 a.m. in downstairs unit 138 at the Forest Lakes Apartments on Hunters Lake Drive, firefighters said. Investigators think unattended candles in the living room sparked the blaze while the couple were in the bedroom. To escape the flames, the couple, who were not immediately identified, broke a window and climbed through to safety, firefighters said. The two sustained injuries while climbing through the broken glass and were taken to Mease Countryside Hospital, officials said. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known. Several of the couple's neighbors were evacuated at the time of the fire, but it didn't appear the flames had spread to other units, officials said. An investigation is under way.