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Woman with boy in lap plows truck into TIA wall, damaging an aquarium, killing fish

TAMPA — A woman with a 6-year-old child in her lap crashed her small truck into the side of Tampa International Airport on Monday night, damaging an aquarium outside the American Airlines baggage claim.

Tire marks show the 1994 red Ford Ranger's path over the curb and into the tank, barely missing a concrete pole on the left and the airport's tiled wall on the right.

Yamile Campuzano-Martine, 36, was waiting to pick up a relative when she lost control of the truck.

It's unclear what caused the 9:20 p.m. crash, but TIA spokeswoman Brenda Geohagan said the woman had been sitting there "for a while."

Campuzano-Martine was cited for careless driving, having a child without a restraint and failing to provide a license.

A 17-year-old was also in the truck. The 6-year-old boy had minor injuries that did not require treatment, Geohagan said.

Most of the fish weren't so lucky.

The tank's thick, clear plastic front was intact, but damage to the pipes underneath caused water to drain out to the sidewalk, road and carpet inside the building.

Geohagan said airport employees gathered up the 30 to 40 Indo-Pacific saltwater fish and put them in a bucket until Florida Aquarium staffers arrived.

For about 90 percent of them, it was too late, Geohagan said.

Al Illustrato, senior director of airport maintenance, watched Tuesday morning as officials from the Florida Aquarium inspected the dry aquarium and looked for surviving hermit crabs.

Aquarium employees are keeping vigil over the four or five fish still alive, Illustrato said. "They're just so fragile."

The 1,500-gallon tank, named El Movimiento del Mar, is part of the airport's public art collection. It was unveiled in 1999 and cost $200,000.

Geohagan said airport officials are determining how much it will cost to fix it and replace the creatures.

Tom Wagner, an aquarium spokesman, said the fish cost about $50 to $500 each, depending on size and species. He said the airport has an open-ended contract with the aquarium to care for the tanks, and it's not yet known if it'll replace the fish with the same varieties or bring in new species. Right now, the priority is caring for those lucky few that might survive, Wagner said, not to mention mourning the others.

"Our biologists were visibly upset over this," he said. "It's a lot of fish, and they've spent the last three to four years raising them from juveniles. They certainly had a number of years left with them."

Woman with boy in lap plows truck into TIA wall, damaging an aquarium, killing fish 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 11:09pm]
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