Sunday, December 17, 2017


Christopher O'Donnell

Christopher O'Donnell

Christopher O'Donnell is a general assignment and local government reporter with the Tampa Bay Times. He was born and grew up in London, England, where he worked for IBM and Citi as a computer programmer and IT analyst. After moving to Florida in 2001, he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida before landing a job with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. During a seven-year stint there, he earned a Florida Society of News Editors award for his coverage of K-12 education. Before joining the Times, he spent three years with the Tampa Tribune and covered city government in both St. Petersburg and Tampa and led coverage of the Tampa Bay Rays' quest for a new ballpark. Away from work, Chris rides his road bicycle on local trails and is an avid soccer fan.

Republican County Commissioner Ken Hagan's sudden announcement of a county offer for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa has some wondering what effect it will have on St. Pete mayor's race

Bad timing? Will news of a Tampa ballpark for Rays hurt Rick Kriseman's reelection chances?

Amid all the buzz about Tuesday's announcement that Hillsborough County has identified a stadium site in the Ybor City-Channel District area to offer to the Tampa Bay Rays for a new ballpark, St. Petersburg political observers wondered about something...
Updated: 2 months ago
Madelynne Barenbrugge and Alan Morris pose with their son, Liam, for a photo posted on a family member's Facebook page in August 2016. Liam drowned Sept. 28 in a bathtub. A state report said he was left alone for about five minutes.  [Facebook]

Clearwater infant who drowned in tub was left alone for about five minutes, report states

DCF looks into the drowning and reports needles found in a troubled household.
Updated: 2 months ago
Rendering of the West River project, which includes The Boulevard at West River. The Tampa Housing Authority won a state tax credit award worth $21 million over 10 years to help fund the apartment complex. But it has now been disqualified after a competing developer, Blue Sky Communities, identified mistakes in its application and challenged the award in court. Blue Sky will now get the tax credits to go toward The Preserve at Sabal Park, a 144-unit workforce housing complex planned for Williams Road.

$21 million mistake delays Tampa Housing Authority's West River project

TAMPA — Errors in an application have cost the Tampa Housing Authority a 10-year, $21 million tax credit that was earmarked to help build much-needed affordable housing in Tampa's ambitious West River revitalization project.The credits...
Updated: 3 months ago
Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.

State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child

A case manager who visited the home one day before the boy's death failed to take necessary action, an abuse hotline operator failed to code an abuse report as "immediate," and the case manager and her supervisor failed on several occasions to...
Updated: 3 months ago
FishHawk Fellowship Church volunteers help Brian Hood, second in line, drag a tree from his Valrico yard Saturday.

Along the Alafia River, the grateful extend a hand to the Irma-sodden weary (w/video)

Floodwaters recede, revealing destruction inside and out.
Updated: 3 months ago
Justin Lyons, 29, kayaks back to his home for more belongings, in the flood waters from the Alafia River, from River Drive, off of Lithia Pinecrest in Valrico.  [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]

Irma flood victims assess damage, look to FEMA for help. (w/video)

LITHIA — The sun was just setting Wednesday when Justin Lyons guided the front of his kayak onto his front porch.After evacuating from Alafia River floodwaters in the middle of the night Tuesday, Lyons needed to see first-hand the damage...
Updated: 3 months ago
Amber Norton, left, and Erica Zaferis, center, talk with Seeds of Hope President Leda Eaton at a relief center at a Lithia Pinecrest Road gas station.  Norton and Zaferis were forced to evacuate from their Lithia homes by rising floodwater from the Alafia River as a result of Hurricane Irma. They ended up sleeping on the floor and in the carwash of the gas station.    [CHRISTOPHER O'DONNELL   |   Times]

Outpouring of support and aid leaves Alafia flood victims surprised, emotional

VALRICO — When the floodwaters came at 3 a.m. Tuesday, high ground for Amber Horton was the Shell gas station on Lithia Pinecrest Road.After escaping through waist-high water, she waited out the night lying on a concrete floor with some...
Updated: 3 months ago
Ronalyn Cribbs, MJ Cribbs and Michael Cribbs ride through Alafia River flooding on River Drive off of Lithia Pinecrest in Valrico. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]

Swollen by Irma, region's rivers overflow flooding homes and vehicles

For Hillsborough and Pasco homes near rivers, devastation flows.
Updated: 3 months ago
A flooded home on River Drive in East Hillsborough Monday. The Alafia River is expected to reach 20 feet by Tuesday morning, a level it last reached in 1935, according to the National Weather Service.   [Photo: Christopher O'Donnell]

Alafia River reaching historic flood levels in wake of Irma

LITHIA — With water from the Alafia River lapping against the wheels of his John Deere tractor, Mike Cribbs turned the starter key.Nothing."We're going to have to jump it," he shouted.Throughout Monday Cribbs had watched the...
Updated: 3 months ago
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn surveys the damage to the Greater New Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Tampa with Pastor Benjamin Curry.  The church steeple crashed to the ground, opening a hole in the roof that allowed rain water to seep in. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

Winds topple steeple at church on Nebraska Ave. just before pastor's installation

TAMPA — Benjamin Curry isn't due to be installed as the pastor of the Greater New Salem Primitive Baptist Church until Wednesday. But as the church's de facto leader, Curry felt he should make sure the property on Nebraska Avenue had come...
Updated: 3 months ago