Claire Wiseman, Times Staff Writer

Claire Wiseman

Claire Wiseman covers breaking news for the Times. She grew up in Liberty, Ind., and graduated from Indiana University. She has previously written for the Dallas Morning News.

Phone: (727) 893-8804

E-mail: cwiseman@tampabay.com

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  1. Pilot didn't see the man and his daughter walking along the beach before he struck them

    Accidents

    ENGLEWOOD — The pilot never saw them.

    Karl Kokomoor and a friend had taken off from an airport six miles away for a Sunday afternoon of sightseeing. Suddenly, he said, the Piper Cherokee's engine failed. The plane lost altitude. He had seconds to scout an emergency landing. Kokomoor eyed a beach, but it looked filled with people. He diverted to another strip of sand.

    At that moment on that same strip of sand, witnesses say, a man and his daughter were on a walk. The nearly silent plane glided in from behind them, its sound drowned out by crashing waves and blowing wind. The nose halted at the water's edge....

    Meung Doung, 38, witnessed the plane crash and ran to the scene, where he saw Rebecca Irizarry breathing into daughter Oceana’s  mouth.
  2. Experts: Father, killed by landing plane, may not have heard its approach

    Public Safety

    Federal investigators are still trying to figure out why a small plane landed on a Venice beach on Sunday, killing a Georgia father and critically injuring his 9-year-old daughter as they walked along the sand.

    But aviation experts contacted by the Tampa Bay Times offered explanations for the puzzling accident. Couldn't the father have gotten himself and his daughter out of the way? Why didn't the pilot try to avoid them?...

    Ommy Irizarry had posted these beach photos to his Facebook page before the accident.
  3. On Craigslist, even warning posts have something to hide

    Human Interest

    The "please read before hiring" warnings litter the ads on the local ride-share page on Craigslist.

    "Warning dangerous felon," one reads. "Predator/stalker … scammer Thomas (Beware ladies)," another says.

    Most messages on the Tampa Bay area of the site warn of two men — Thomas Lieupo, 38, and Paul Gordon, 45 — and use nearly identical language to say the men have been arrested in Hillsborough County for "rape and molesting girls." The posts include the men's phone numbers and mug shots....

  4. Spared prison, 550-pound man sought freedom; judge weighs in

    Criminal

    TREASURE ISLAND — A morbidly obese man whose poor health helped him avoid prison time had his request for a shortened sentence denied this month.

    In 2012, a federal judge sentenced Steven Goodman, a 70-year-old former pharmacist who weighs 551 pounds, to four years of probation and 30 months of home confinement.

    Based in West Palm Beach, Goodman was convicted of supplying more than 1 million Oxycodone and other high-powered pain killers to illegal clinics throughout South Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported. ...

    Steven Goodman, 70, arrives at federal court in West Palm Beach in 2012 for sentencing on charges he sold more than 1 million prescription meds to fake pain management clinics. RICHARD GRAULICH/ZUMAPRESS.COM
  5. St. Petersburg police crack down on synthetic marijuana sales (video)

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police are cracking down on the illegal sale of synthetic marijuana, known as spice.

    After seeing a dramatic rise in the sale of the drug, which St. Petersburg banned more than a year ago, undercover and uniformed officers launched an effort to target individuals and businesses still selling spice.

    In the last six months of 2013, police averaged 39 synthetic marijuana-related arrests per month. That average is now 63....

    Assistant police Chief Luke Williams shows the people arrested and spice seized in Tuesday’s sting in St. Petersburg.
  6. St. Petersburg worker critically injured in tractor accident

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — A construction worker was seriously injured Tuesday when he was backed over by a brush tractor as he attempted to climb aboard.

    Police said the accident happened about 7:45 a.m. in a construction zone on Fourth Street N, near Jefferson Circle SE. Mark J. Tucker, 64, of Tarpon Springs, a contract worker with Pro Way Construction, was trying to climb back onto a Kubota tractor with an attached street brush. As he climbed up, the tractor somehow slipped into reverse. ...

    A state transportation worker was seriously injured Tuesday morning when he was run over by a street sweeper as he attempted to climb on board. [CLAIRE WISEMAN   |   Times]
  7. Plant City girl, 11, shaken but relieved after helping save toddler from drowning

    Public Safety

    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — A day after her quick reaction saved a toddler's life, 11-year-old Riley Cooper was still a little shaken.

    Cooper and two friends were swimming at the Holiday Inn at 401 2nd Street in Indian Rocks Beach Thursday afternoon when she noticed something was wrong. Three-year-old Dominic A. Cicco, who they'd noticed earlier that day, bumped into them again. But this time the little boy was struggling. ...

  8. Computer glitch blamed for Allegiant Air delays

    Transportation

    A systemwide failure of Allegiant Air's computer system caused flight delays Friday.

    At St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, where the airline is the largest provider of flights, the system failure was reported just before 8 a.m., spokeswoman Michele Routh said.

    It was expected to cause a domino-effect delay in most of the 16 arriving and 16 departing flights from the airport today....

  9. In jail, 'John Doe' inmates often identified

    Courts

    In late June, St. Petersburg police officer Daniel Poveda arrested a man without a name.

    Just after 8 p.m., according to an arrest affidavit, the man tried to use a fake license to collect a Western Union money order at the Publix store on 37th Avenue N.

    When Poveda asked for his name, the man said it was Robert Senske. After he was read his Miranda rights, he changed his story. His name, he said, was Robert Darigo. ...

  10. Chikungunya virus: It's coming for us, but not quite yet

    Health

    Don't try calling in sick with chikungunya just yet.

    Though 81 cases of the virus have been reported in Florida so far this year, including a new case confirmed in Pinellas County on Tuesday, none of them was contracted in the U.S.

    The mosquito-borne disease is widespread in the Caribbean, and the latest case in Pinellas County is an 81-year-old woman who returned from the region after traveling there in June and early July....

  11. Florida volunteers see both sides of new Peace Corps process

    Human Interest

    When Elizabeth Coomber submitted her application for the Peace Corps, she had one destination in mind: Africa. But the process took months, and there was no guarantee she would be selected or that her choice of region would be honored.

    "It was incredibly drawn out because it kind of left you in the dark for most of it," the Valrico native said.

    On Wednesday, the Peace Corps announced changes designed to streamline that process. A new application will take about one hour instead of eight, shortened acceptance times are meant to ease uncertainty, and potential volunteers now will be able to choose the country they want to serve in and the type of work they want to do. ...

    Richard Gillies, 88, left, and his partner, Rebecca Wellborn, 56, met when working on a Peace Corps mission together in Jamaica in 1998.
  12. Orlando City fan clubs suspended after Rowdies game arrests

    Human Interest

    After four men were arrested at a Tampa Bay Rowdies match on Sunday, Orlando City Soccer Club's founder and president issued a statement announcing harsh penalties for the two Orlando fan groups involved.

    "Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization," Phil Rawlins said in a post on the club's website. ...

  13. Orlando City fans hit with harsh penalties after Rowdies game

    Human Interest

    After four men were arrested at a Tampa Bay Rowdies match on Sunday, Orlando City Soccer Club's founder and president issued a statement announcing harsh penalties for the two Orlando fan groups involved.

    "Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization," Phil Rawlins said in a post on the club's website. ...

  14. Raucous fans, smoke bombs disrupt Rowdies match against Orlando

    Fire

    ST. PETERSBURG — Four men were arrested, 16 fans were ejected and smoke bombs were set off Sunday at a particularly raucous Tampa Bay Rowdies game.

    The club blamed members of a group of Orlando City Soccer Club fans who arrived at Al Lang Stadium before the 6:30 p.m. game.

    In a statement released on the club's Facebook page Monday, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards said local fans were intentionally moved away from Orlando fans and additional security guards and police officers were called in to monitor the situation. ...

    St. Petersburg Fire Rescue crews responded Sunday to Al Lang Stadium after smoke bombs were set off.
  15. Mother accused of leaving baby in hot van for over three hours

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A mother was charged with child abuse late Saturday after police said she left her 4-month-old infant in a hot minivan twice in one day.

    Natasha Graver's Facebook page features a post about the three women — Grace Collier, 25, Briana Campbell, 23, and Jamesia Santoria, 21 — killed by a hit-and-run crash in St. Petersburg June 26. "Tell a friend to tell a friend DRIVE SAFE," the message, which she reposted, says. ...

    Natasha Graver went to a funeral and forgot about the 
4-month-old in her van, police say.