On a Wednesday evening last March, Mark LoMoglio had just finished his regular five-mile run around his Sterling Ranch neighborhood in the Brandon suburbs east of Tampa.
He was walking home, cooling down, like he’d done a hundred times before. He kept his cell phone flashlight on to stay visible as it got dark.
Almost home, all he had to do was walk across Cattleman Drive, a residential street lined with houses on both sides, to his driveway. Maybe he and his daughter would order Uber Eats for dinner, chicken tenders for her, a burger for him. Watch a Marvel movie. He looked both ways, stepped into the road, walked halfway across.
He never saw the car.
Daniel E. Morales, 23, was driving a white 2014 Toyota Corolla west on Cattleman, where the speed limit was 25 mph. He would later tell a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy he was going 35-40 mph, according the crash report.
Morales told the deputy he was “heading back to work” and looked at his cell phone for a text he had received, the report said. When he looked up and saw the man in front of him, Morales said, it was “too late.”
Police responding to calls of “car versus pedestrian” is nothing new in Florida, rated the worst state in the nation to try to walk.
And on a list of the deadliest American metropolitan areas for pedestrians, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ranked eighth, according to Dangerous by Design 2021, a report by the advocacy group Smart Growth America.
LoMoglio was a dad out for a run to keep in shape. He was a sports photographer you might not have even noticed at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Rays match. He lived in the suburbs where it’s supposed to be safe and got hit outside his own front door. This is a story of a Tampa Bay pedestrian, a driver who got a ticket and what happened next.
The Toyota’s front driver side hit LoMoglio and flipped him over the windshield. His right sneaker landed in a neighbor’s yard. Lying in the road, he tried to get up and realized he couldn’t.
The driver got out. He looked young. “My life’s over,” LoMoglio said he heard him say. He tried to help, to put pressure on LoMoglio’s bloodied knee. A couple walking a dog called 911.
At Tampa General Hospital, X-rays revealed the damage: Two broken ankles, a broken left tibia — LoMoglio googled to find out it was his shinbone — a damaged left knee and broken left hand. That at least was a scrap of good news: LoMoglio was right-handed.
The doctor said he would not be able to put weight on either of his feet for three months, news he found “kind of terrifying.”
“At that point I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk after three months,” said LoMoglio, 35. “I’d never broken a bone in my body in my life.”
He was a single dad making his living at a multitude of jobs: shooting college football and the Tampa Bay Rays as a freelance photographer, photographing the Buccaneers for the Associated Press, on contract to shoot the Tampa Tarpons (the rebranded Tampa Yankees) and assisting the team photographer of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“A lot of work, but it’s fun,” he said.
He stayed in the hospital 22 days, undergoing surgeries to put in various screws, plates and a rod for his tibia. Visitation rules had tightened with COVID-19. His mother, who owns a title company, came every day. But he couldn’t see his daughter, who was 13.
On his ninth day in, friends at the Yankees organization managed to make arrangements to get her in to see him for an hour. It was the longest they had ever been apart.
He lay there watching endless loops of Bay News 9. Baseball was starting. Concerts were coming back. He watched the Lightning play on TV and thought: “They’re going to make it to the Stanley Cup again and win it. And I won’t be able to shoot it.”
It turned out that Morales also lived on Cattleman Drive a few blocks from LoMoglio. They didn’t know each other.
Morales had been involved in a previous crash on Cattleman in the same Toyota, according to court records. In 2016, he was ticketed on a charge of “failure of driver to report a traffic crash” in an accident that resulted in $2,000 in property damage and paid a fine, court records show. No further details were available.
In the March 10 crash involving LoMoglio, Morales was issued a $163 ticket on one count of careless driving. Florida’s careless driving statute requires people to drive “in a careful and prudent manner ... so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.” A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said the charge encompasses both distracted driving and speeding.
Rick Silverman, the Tampa attorney representing Morales, declined to speak to the Tampa Bay Times about Morales’ case. He said he also advised his client, who did not respond to messages from the Times, not to speak with a reporter while the case is pending.
But LoMoglio couldn’t understand why the citation didn’t reflect how badly he’d been hurt. He called the sheriff’s deputy on the case to ask.
“That’s all that ran through my head: How’s somebody able to get a $163 ticket for almost killing somebody?” LoMoglio said. “Any more serious, I’m either paralyzed or dead.”
In April, the Sheriff’s Office sent a letter to the court clerk, noting that “the pedestrian involved in this crash suffered serious injuries that have now limited his mobility in his arms and legs.” Morales was issued a new citation adding “serious bodily injury” to careless driving after investigators learned the extent of LoMoglio’s injuries, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
This upped the ante. It added $500 to the fine to make it $663. (A fatality would have added $1,000.) It also meant a mandatory court appearance before a judge. And the possible penalties now included losing his license for 90 days.
“That was a like a little win, for some kind of justice,” LoMoglio said.
But at one point, it looked like there would be no penalty at all.
At a hearing before County Judge Margaret Taylor, Morales’ attorney argued that there was a flaw in the ticket itself. The judge agreed to dismiss the case, but later set aside that dismissal and set a court date. No explanation was available in court records.
A court date — essentially, Morales’ trial — has been set for Jan. 6 before Judge Taylor. LoMoglio is listed as a “witness.”
He was still in a wheelchair when the Lightning started the playoffs. Then some good news: The team got him into a viewing section so he could shoot the games from his chair. That’s what he did.
“By Game 5, I was able to stand and shoot the the Stanley Cup,” LoMoglio said. “That was probably the highlight of this whole experience.”
He is walking as much as he can and can do a few miles now, though he keeps a cane with him for when he needs it. “Every day seems to get better,” he said. He’s been talking to civil lawyers about filing a personal injury lawsuit.
He’s shot the Tarpons and the Bucs preseason, though he can’t go up and down the sidelines as fast as he once did. “I’m at like 40 percent,” he said.
And he has not spoken to the man who hit him, though he has since seen him driving the white car down the road where they both live.
“I was just crossing the street,” he said.