ST. PETERSBURG — Two and a half weeks after a suspected drunken driver swerved off the road and plowed into Andrew Hall, ripping away his left leg and shattering his pelvis, the 19-year-old had this to say to the public:
"I'm working hard. Only the strong survive, right?"
Hall spoke exclusively with the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday in a brief telephone interview from his hospital bed at Bayfront Medical Center, where he has been since the April 20 accident.
Hall said he has been overwhelmed by the hundreds of cards and letters he's received from well-wishers, some of whom have written that hearing about his story has changed their lives.
Hall, a devout Christian who has had cerebral palsy all his life, said he had his Bible nearby and was finding comfort in a book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts. The book is about "how to try to understand the concepts of very harsh circumstances in life," he said.
Recently, Hall asked to see a picture of Joshua West, the man who Pinellas County deputies believe was drinking and driving when he lost control of his car and crashed into Hall as he stood outside his Safety Harbor apartment. Hall studied it intently for two minutes before sharing his thoughts, said Mary Arana-Andersen, who is like a mother to him.
"I just pray that God humbles his heart and that he'll do the right thing and turn himself in," Hall told his family. "And if he does that, I'll shake his hand.
"Tell everybody to pray for him."
The response wasn't surprising to Arana-Andersen. "That's just Andrew, and, I mean, it's from the heart," she said. "From the time he was probably 7 years old, he gave his heart to the Lord and he meant it."
Hall has undergone several surgeries to repair his injuries, stop internal bleeding and treat an infection. On Wednesday, he had a 5 1/2-hour surgery to repair his shattered pelvis, Arana-Andersen said.
Hall struggled his whole life to walk unaided before the accident that claimed his leg. Despite the catastrophic injuries he suffered, Hall remains positive, family members said.
"When he woke up (from being sedated), he looked over at his dad and said, 'Dad, I want you to take me over to Shriner's (Hospital in Tampa) and get me a prosthetic leg,' " Arana-Andersen said.
West, 24, has not yet been charged in the case, but is wanted on an unrelated warrant issued by the state Department of Corrections for violating his probation on cocaine and marijuana possession charges.
Authorities have not been able to find him since he was discharged from a Tampa hospital two days after the accident.
The "warrants (task force) has been diligently searching for him, but we are still unable to find him," said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Carter said they've been checking old addresses and spots that West frequented.
West ran from the scene of the accident, but was picked up by Pinellas deputies a short distance away. Another man, 24-year-old Douglas Zeigler, was in the car with West.
Deputies have said they believe West was behind the wheel and that drinking was involved, but that neither man has cooperated with the investigation, which is ongoing.
Zeigler hasn't been charged in connection with the accident either.
Times staff writer Drew Harwell contributed to this report. Rita Farlow can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4157.