Woman drives off boat ramp: 10 News gets answers

12:46 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Noon update: Woman drowns after driving off boat ramp

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Tampa, Florida -- Few street lights and no warning signs confronted a woman who drove down a boat ramp and died. We asked whether changes are due at Lowry Park.

A combination of confusion led Tampa mother Magdalia Mendoza to the accident that took her life.

Rain poured and darkness enveloped everything at 7:30 Wednesday evening.

She was lost and on the phone when she inadvertently steered her minivan down the Lowry Park boat ramp and into the Hillsborough River.

10 News went back to the park just hours later, when it was dry but still dark, to see what she saw.

According to a friend who was on the phone and heard Mendoza's final cries for help, the last coherent word Mendoza said was "Flora." It's the name of the street that leads to the boat ramp.

Turn down Flora Street off of North Boulevard and only a small sign shows what's in store. "Boat ramp" and an arrow point down the street, along with more words and arrows that point to other areas.

Scattered street lights do little to light the way. The speed limit on Flora is posted at 25 mph, which doesn't give the impression the road ends just a block or so away.

Pass one more sign that's mostly text with boat ramp rules, two curves, and you're right at the rippling edge of the murky river.

10 News went to City of Tampa Parks Director Greg Bayor and asked, is that enough?

"In that area there are not a lot of street lights. There's not a lot of signage -- there's no signage, really -- that tells you that the road is coming to an end. Is that something that needs to change?" I asked.

"It's very similar to all of our boat ramps. And so I think when we see the report comes in, we'll take an analysis of the situation and make corrective measures if we need corrective measures," Bayor answered.

Bayor pledged to learn from this death.

"It's a bigger picture of all of our boat ramps. We have to take a look at all of them to make sure that this doesn't happen again,"

He said no one on his staff can recall anything like this before at the city's five boat ramps.

And while it's too early to get specific about this accident, in general, he says safety reviews can bring life saving changes.

"Certainly, we'll look for some national standards and see if we're meeting those national standards. And if there's anything that we can do that just common sense and logic says, 'You know, we ought to do this.'"

Bayor told us the city's parks staff will start its own investigation -- possibly working alongside other city departments -- once it receives a report on the incident from Tampa police. That report is expected in three days or less.

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