An Inclusive Litany

11/16/00

Having spent 78 hours stuck in a swampy, 40-foot ravine after her car was forced off the road by a hit-and-run driver, 84-year-old Tillie Tooter announced her intention to sue the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department and Florida Highway Patrol for not rescuing her sooner.

The Florida Highway Patrol had been in the area, but found only the other car, whose driver said he thought he had crashed into the barrier wall. Rescue crews searched the area with floodlights, but failed to spot Ms. Tooter's car amidst the dense thicket. A follow-up 911 call from a witness who saw a car going over the barrier was miscommunicated to the officers on the scene.

Tooter survived by capturing rainwater in a steering wheel cover and was discovered three days later by a road worker, with only minor injuries such as numerous mosquito bites. It took search and rescue officers another hour to retrieve her from the thicket. The other driver was arrested for a felony and two misdemeanors.

"We're not seeking revenge here against any state agency," said Tooter's lawyer in bringing the suit. "I feel they do a commendable job, especially Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue that did an outstanding job in her rescue. It's about Grandma Tillie and doing what's in her best interests to protect her legal rights."

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