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Man's body found in flooded Largo canal

LARGO — As the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Debby began to recede Wednesday, a man's body was discovered floating in a swollen canal just north of the Pinellas Safe Harbor homeless shelter.

Pedestrians spotted the body in the Cross Bayou Canal and called authorities at 7:40 a.m., according to Largo Police Lt. Mike Loux. It was found near a bridge on 150th Avenue, just off 49th Street N.

The cause of death has yet to be determined, and police continue to investigate. A preliminary examination of the body did not suggest foul play. There were "no obvious signs of a struggle," Loux said.

Police did not know whether the man's death was related to the three days of heavy storms the region has endured.

Two confirmed deaths have so far been attributed to Debby: A 32-year-old Highlands County woman was killed by a tornado, and a man drowned after his canoe capsized on Lake Dorr, in Ocala National Forest.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office also responded Wednesday morning to a call about a floating body in New Port Richey.

In Largo, the man found in the canal was carrying an identification issued by Safe Harbor, the shelter by the county jail that houses homeless, low-level offenders. The shelter sits next to the canal, just south of where the body was discovered.

Police were not releasing the man's name pending notification of his next of kin.

Wednesday morning, about a half-dozen officials from the Largo Police Department and Medical Examiner's Office gathered on the bank of the canal, wrapping the body in a white shroud. It was lifted onto a gurney and driven from the scene.

The water was black, swollen and sluggish. It appeared to have risen well above its normal level, with trees on either side engulfed up to their boughs.

Angie Stone, who lives down the road, leaned on her fence watching the scene. She said flooding from Debby had been a problem in the neighborhood, with water rising into her daughter's bedroom.

"It was bad," she said. "I've been in Florida since 2001. That storm we had Sunday was the worst one I've seen yet."

Stone said she often sees transients from Safe Harbor walking up and down her road. It's said in the neighborhood that they sometimes congregate under the bridge.

"They'd be walking up and down here and they'd be coming through the cut sometimes," she said.

Her daughter was beside her, looking up the road toward the canal. "He was probably trying to go home, Mama," she said.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Man's body found in flooded Largo canal 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:37pm]
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