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Woman rescued after hit-and-run, fire in Brandon

Donald A. Ward, left, ran a stop sign and struck Anne Fanning's car.
Published Jul. 29, 2013

BRANDON — Yolanda Fanning tried to convince herself nothing was amiss.

Her daughter had called late Saturday to say she would soon arrive at her parent's house after visiting the beach with friends.

But the car never pulled up.

"I figured she decided to stay at her apartment" in Tampa, Fanning said. But mother's intuition, she said, wouldn't let her relax.

Her daughter, Anne Marie Fanning, 22, didn't answer text messages or cellphone calls.

"We waited and we waited and waited," the mother said.

In fact, something was terribly wrong.

A driver from Land O'Lakes ran a stop sign and struck Anne Marie Fanning's 2003 Mazda on the Brandon Parkway near Providence Road at 11:38 p.m. Saturday, Hillsborough County deputies said. He then ran from the crash.

What he left behind, deputies and fire officials said, was a semiconscious Fanning with critical internal injuries, trapped behind the wheel as flames rose from the back of the Mazda.

Sheriff's deputies soon arrived and saw flames threatening Fanning. Deputies used a fire extinguisher — standard gear in cruisers — to knock down the blaze. Other extinguishers followed. One by one, they emptied.

Deputies were on their sixth when they heard the sirens of Hillsborough Fire Rescue trucks arriving, said Sgt. Ed Kelley, a deputy who investigates serious crashes. Firefighters put out the fire and worked to release Fanning.

Fanning, an accounting senior at the University of South Florida, was taken in critical condition to Tampa General Hospital.

Yolanda Fanning said her daughter underwent surgery for internal injuries and is expected to survive, though Anne Marie Fanning faces a hard recovery.

"A mother's prayers were answered," she said. "It was a miracle she wasn't burned. Miracles do happen."

The deputies who put out the blaze could not be reached for comment Sunday.

But according to the agency: Donald A. Ward, 38, had been driving south on Providence Road in Brandon at about 45 mph when he ran a stop sign. His 2007 GMC Envoy crossed the westbound lanes of the Brandon Parkway, hopped the median, then struck Fanning's Mazda, which was heading east.

Ward ran away to the south. Deputies with a tracking dog followed him to a retention pond but could not find him. A sheriff's helicopter unit using a thermal camera that can detect body heat soon spotted Ward hiding under some brush.

As Deuce the dog approached with a deputy, Ward tried to jump in the pond. Deuce bit down on Ward's hand but lost his grip. Ward swam under water to the middle of the pond, but he quickly surrendered when he resurfaced.

Deputies said they smelled alcohol as they interviewed Ward, but they said he refused a field sobriety test.

Ward, who was treated for minor injuries to his hand, was arrested and faces a felony charge of fleeing the scene of an accident involving injury.

An investigation, including toxicology tests, continues.

Ward, listed in jail records as a self-employed computer repairman, had been arrested in 1995 on a misdemeanor DUI charge, state documents show. He was sentenced to year of probation and fined after pleading guilty, the records show.

On Sunday, Ward was released about 10 hours after the crash on $2,000 bail, according to jail records. He could not be reached for comment.

Yolanda Fanning said she was thankful for the work of deputies and fire rescue crews.

"If you write a story," the mother said, "ask people to pray for my daughter's health. That would be great. Pray for her."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com.

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