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Possible driver in wreck that severed man's leg wanted for probation violation

Authorities on Friday were seeking to arrest the Tampa man who investigators suspect was driving the car that struck a Safety Harbor man this week, severing his leg.

Joshua Dean West doesn't face charges in connection with that crash — at least not yet. But he does face a charge that he violated the terms of his probation on previous charges.

As of late Friday, West had not been found.

Pinellas sheriff's deputies suspect West, 24, was driving drunk when he plowed into Andrew Hall early Monday. The impact tore Hall's left leg from his body, crushed his pelvis and broke his left arm.

Hall, 19, has cerebral palsy and has struggled to walk unaided much of his life. He underwent more surgery Friday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. He remains in critical condition.

"I just hope they find him," Allen Arana, who has been a brother figure to Hall, said of West. "It's not like he can hide anywhere. Everybody knows his face by this point."

The probation violation charge against West stems from cocaine and marijuana possession charges, for which he received a term of probation in March 2008. He violated probation in January when corrections officials couldn't find him, and he was given another year of probation when he was arrested this year on charges of driving under the influence and driving without a license.

One of the terms of the probation was that he not leave Hills­borough County without permission. When probation officials learned he had been in Safety Harbor when the accident occurred, they knew he had violated his probation again.

Thursday, the state Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest.

Wednesday, the day before the warrant was issued, West was released from St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he had been treated after Monday's incident.

Tampa police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor said law enforcement officers have made several visits to the most recent address they have for Hall, which is in a Rocky Point neighborhood, but they have been unable to find him.

"If he is running, I think he is a coward," said Allen Arana, 28. "How much more damage does he want to inflict? He's already taken my little brother's leg."

Pinellas Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda was unable to say Friday when her office learned that West was leaving the hospital or whether law enforcement had concerns about keeping track of him.

"Any information about when and where and what is probably going to be part of our investigation, and I'm not going to be able to tell you," she said.

It's premature to assume West has fled, said criminal defense attorney Roger Futerman, who has offices in Clearwater and Tampa. West may be staying with family or friends who are unknown to police, said Futerman, who is not involved in the case.

Futerman also said it's not unusual that the Pinellas Sheriff's Office has not yet arrested West in connection with the crash. They could be waiting for the results of toxicology tests or could be looking for more witnesses, he said.

Sheriff's Office officials have said previously that West and another man in the car that morning, Douglas Zeigler, 24, of Clearwater, have not cooperated with their investigation.

Arana said Pinellas investigators have told him they want to have a solid case before they make an arrest.

"They're just being very meticulous about things to make sure there's no missteps, so if and when they do make an arrest, he won't get off on some kind of loophole," he said.

Hall's surgery Friday was to clean and treat the site of his severed leg. The procedure lasted two hours. He's battling an infection and still has internal bleeding, which surgeons are trying to control, said Mary Arana-Andersen, who has been a caretaker to Hall throughout his life.

"He's still very critical," she said.

But Hall is giving his loved ones reason to hope. He tried to smile at them before he went into surgery Friday morning, said Arana-Andersen, 57.

"The doctor told us today, he really thinks he's going to make it," she said.

Times staff writer Drew Harwell contributed to this report. Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

FAST FACTS

Two blood drives

Today from 2 to 8 p.m. a Florida Blood Services van will be parked at Park Place Stadium 16 cinema in Pinellas Park accepting blood donations in Andrew Hall's name. The cinema is at 4385 Park Blvd. Another blood drive is scheduled on May 12 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hudson High School, Hall's alma mater. The drive will be in front of the school gym. Hudson High is at 14410 Cobra Way in Hudson. The family is working to set up a trust that will accept donations to help pay the cost of Hall's medical care.

Possible driver in wreck that severed man's leg wanted for probation violation 04/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 10:44pm]

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