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Toddler's legs severed in lawn mower accident

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reported the toddler’s father was outside on the riding lawn mower in the West Lake Village subdivision around 7:30 p.m. when the 2½-year-old girl ran into its path.
Published Dec. 18, 2013

PALM HARBOR — The little girl with light brown hair looked up at the deputy and asked him where her legs had gone.

Moments before on Wednesday evening, her father was pulling his red Wizard riding lawn mower into the garage when he looked up and saw his wife, screaming and motioning for him to stop.

He backed up, unaware that his daughter, who is 2, had fallen behind him. The mower ran over her. The blades severed her hand and both of her legs beneath the knees.

The father leapt off the mower.

Minutes later, the girl was taken to Tampa General Hospital in a helicopter. Her condition was not available late Wednesday night. Officials did not release her name.

In his kitchen across the street, Oleksandr Ryasnianskiy had heard the father's shrieks. They hardly sounded human.

"That's not something you want to hear," he said later.

Another neighbor, Dru Overwijk, arrived home from yoga and saw a pair of deputies in white uniforms standing in the driveway near the mower.

Two women were kneeling on the ground next to the girl, pressing towels against her wounds.

Outside a garage crowded with toys and children's bicycles, she watched the father pace the driveway. His face and eyes were deep red, and his T-shirt was covered in blood.

He keeled forward and braced his hands on his knees. He let out deep, guttural howls.

"I can't," she heard him say. "I can't."

A deputy heard the girl's mother repeat what she had seen over and over.

Firefighters said they later treated the parents for hysteria.

The family had moved into the small, ranch home on Hollow Ridge Road in the Westlake Village subdivision about a year ago. Neighbors had grown used to the sound of young, happy voices chirping from the home each morning. The family often hosted birthday parties.

They have at least three children, maybe more. Neighbors believed the girl was their youngest.

Before emergency workers loaded the girl onto the helicopter and before firefighters sprayed down the driveway in bleach and before Overwijk knew what had actually happened, she stood outside her house and watched.

Then, just feet from the girl, she spotted something on the driveway: a teddy bear.

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