Toddler critically injured in lawnmower accident - FOX 13 News

Toddler critically injured in lawnmower accident

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(FOX 13 photo) (FOX 13 photo)

Time looks like it is standing still in a Lake Placid back yard. Toys were on the ground and a mower, stopped in its tracks.

A short patch of grass was also mowed, just before the Highlands County Sheriff said 2-year-old Anthony Meza was seriously injured, after his mother, Maria Huerto Bello, accidentally backed over him with their riding lawn mower.

Meza's injuries are serious. He had more surgery Thursday, as doctors at Tampa General Hospital make every effort to save his leg.

"It's a relatively common occurrence," said Dr. Joe Perno with All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg. "But I think we've had a bad cluster over the last few months of these horrible acdidents and it's just something the parents need to use some common sense with."

Perno says he sees cases like that all the time in the pediatric emergency room, and said kids have no fear when it comes to approaching those big machines.

"They're actually attracted to the mowers, the noise, the excitement of it, so they're drawn to it," Perno said. "They don't have the idea that that machine there, that's making all that noise, can actually hurt me."

Anthony's mother Maria and father Guillermo Cruz are with him at TGH.

"It's always heartbreaking because it takes me back to the night that we were there with Ireland waiting and wondering and hoping that everything was going to be ok," said Nicole Nugent, who's daughter Ireland lost both feet in a lawnmower accident back in April.

Three months later, 4-year-old Makaya Lee lost her toes in a similar accident in Hardee County and now Meza is the youngest victim.

Nugent would like to see changes made to riding mowers.

"Kind of like when your car, they have the technology, when your car is backing-up, because these kids are little and if you go to back up and it beeps, then you know somebody or something is behind you."

Nugent reached out to the family at TGH this morning, the same way she reached out to Lee's family when their daughter had a similar accident in Hardee County back in July.

She said it's like being a memeber of a club nobody wants to belong to, but she hopes she can at least offer the family hope.

Meza's parents have asked the hospital to not release any further word on how he's doing just yet, but you can imagine the emotions the family is wrestling with right now.

We spoke to a neighbor, who told us what she knows about the family.

"I felt bad hearing that," the woman said. "I can tell she cared for him very much. She always was carrying him whenever the older boy was at the bus stop she would carry the little boy to pick up the older boy at the bus stop"

"It's one of those constant reminders we need to put in people's minds," said Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton. "Look before you lock, look before you crank the machine, make sure seatbelt is buckled. All those little tiny constant reminders that make us fully aware of the dangers aroudn us that can end in horrible tragedy like this."

Benton said her detectives working the case have ruled out any kind of wrongdoing. It's just a tragic accident, simple as that.

The neighbor referred to the boy's brother, Angel, whom we're told is being looked after by other family in Lake Placid.

And as bad as all this sounds and feels right now, Sarasota native Dan Strzempka, offered these words of hope. He lost his left leg at four years old.

He went on to make it his life's work, helping others developing prosthetics at the Hanger Clinic. Strzempka said he remembers his own accident like it was yesterday.

"I was just playing in a wooded area in the yard and I kind of ran out of that wooded area and right in front of the mower and actually did a baseball slide, it came from my right side thank God, it only took off my left right, it didn't touch my right leg," said Stzrempka. "Who was riding the mower?," we asked. "It was a family member," he said. "And how did they cope?," we asked. "That's the thing, the parents are actually going to have a harder time than the child, the guilt and all that," he said.

Strzempka also designed the now famous fluke that Winter the dolphin wears. He said his heart goes out the the family right now,and wants them to know that he's living proof, life will be even greater after the boy heals.

This case comes just about three months after 4-year-old Makaya Lee was injured when her dad accidentally backed over her leg on a lawnmower. That was in Hardee County.

Then there's 3-year-old Ireland Nugent.  In April, she was also run over by a lawnmower. She lost both of her feet in that accident. She's still recovering day by day, fitted now with prosthetic limbs.


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