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HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — Solutions could be coming soon to overcrowding and the lack of patrol on the Weeki Wachee River.

People who know the river, know that it’s a combination of a lot of things that are creating too many kayaks, too little patrol, and too much trash on the natural spring.

"All of us are very concerned with the health of the Weeki Wachee River for the long term. It’s one of our greatest resources here in Hernando County," said John Allocco, Hernando county commissioner.

The county has little control because the state owns and regulates much of the land. But the solution could be with the biggest kayak vendor on the river, “Guest Services" which launches kayaks from Weeki Wachee State Park and picks them up miles downriver at Roger’s Park -- the only county-owned spot on the river.

On Tuesday, after hearing the concerns of many citizens, the county commissioners decided to make changes in their contract with "Guest Services." Instead of renewing the vendor’s two-year contract to use Roger’s Park for $33,000 a year, the county added onto the contract that "Guest Services" must pay for a full-time county deputy to patrol the river. They also included verbiage that no more than 400 kayaks could be launched per day from Weeki Wachee State Park.

County Commissioners hope these amendments will help control some of the issues on the river.

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Keith Nash never made it out of the parking lot of his mother’s apartment complex.

The 48-year-old man burned to death after getting into his Mother's 2014 Kia Soul just outside Cincinnati last year.

Carol Nash heard her sons' screams for help. 

“I would not wish that on anybody,” she said.

Carol raced toward the burning car but could not get close enough to help her firstborn.

“It was so hot, I couldn't get him out of the car without probably killing myself."

The police report cites his cause of death as smoke and gas inhalation. 

But authorities said he also had fentanyl and heroin in his system. Investigators found no drug paraphernalia or residue in the car.

The I-Team has exposed hundreds of fires involving Kia and Hyundai models since 2011. 

In three separate cases -- including two in Tampa Bay, drivers told us they were trapped, fighting with doors that would not open as flames raced from the engine toward them. 

91 of the more than 200 Kia fires reported to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration involve the 2011 to 2014 Optimas and Sorentos, according to the National Center for Auto Safety. By comparison, Toyota and Honda drivers in similar-sized SUVS and sedans reported a combined 13 fires for cars sold during that same time period.

The Center for Auto Safety petitioned federal regulators to launch a safety defect investigation after our story aired in May.  The Washington, D.C. watchdog is now calling for an investigation into the Kia Soul fires. The Kia that Keith Nash died in is one of 29 reported fires in Kia Souls sold between 2010 and 2015. 

The Center for Auto Safety and several members of Congress are demanding the NHTSA also investigate what they call an alarming number of Hyundai fires. Hyundai, Kia's sister company manufactures the Santa Fe and Sonata. NHTSA reports 70 fires total in the 2011 to 2014  Santa Fe and Sonata models.

We reached out to Kia for a comment on the Soul fires. We are still waiting to hear back. 
The feds will decide whether to investigate the car fires in the next two weeks. 
Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation Committee is debating whether to call a Senate hearing that would force manufacturers to answer questions about the fires under oath.

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TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The latest polls indicate Florida’s Senate seat is neck-and-neck between Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott. The governor’s race shows Andrew Gillum with a slight lead over Ron DeSantis.

So we ventured to Gaither High School for National Voter Registration Day see if some freshly turned 18-year-olds could swing the November votes.

Gaither High Class President Haley Zarcone said she understands democracy.

Zarcone was senator for her freshman year. She was then Vice President during her sophomore year and has been president two years in a row. She says she gets how important voting is.

“Every vote counts and one vote can sway,” she said. “I think more so information than bias is key.”

Tuesday, as her peers grabbed lunch, the nation’s newest adults in Hillsborough County also registered to vote, this time for the big leagues.

“If you don’t say anything then how is anybody going to know what you want,” student Dalyzia Jones-Foster said.

With the election six weeks away, Senate seat up for grabs and Florida’s next governor on the line, the 18-year-olds we spoke with said they won't just be our future, they‘re planning to determine it as well.

“Because it is up to us what happens next. What changes, what stays the same,” senior Chad Hence said. “At least be aware.”

Hence already registered over the summer. 

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WESTCHASE, Fla. — Over the past few weeks, many parents have asked ABC Action News to press the Hillsborough County School District about late buses.

Isabel Phifer has become used to text messages from her son about his bus being late in Westchase to pick him up and take him to Alonso High School. 

"This was on Monday at 9:21, the bus didn’t come at all,” she said, as she points to the most recent message. "Every child is not late to Alonso, but our children are late almost all the time,” she said.

A picture snapped Monday by a neighbor shows several kids waiting on a bus they say never showed up.

Around 10 a.m., Phifer drove those kids to school, two of them are her children. 

Jim Beekman, the transportation director for the district responded to Phifer's e-mail about the missed bus: 

"I looked up the GPS report for your student's bus for yesterday. The report has come through and it shows that the bus stop was made at Gretna Green Drive at 7:26:18 yesterday morning. What does not show is the second stop at Gretna Green when it went past the stop,” he said.

"Who's accountable for making sure every kid is picked up?” she asked.

He plans on taking a look at the bus security video to see how many kids rode the bus Monday. Phifer says on Friday they got word the bus would arrive a few minutes earlier at 7:31 a.m.

In newly obtained e-mails between district officials, Alonso’s principal typed a heated letter on September 7, 2018, and claimed some buses were held at nearby elementary schools for 15-20 minutes instead of dropping off and leaving right at 7:10 a.m. The district says those schools were told to stop doing that.

"The excuses that are being given including the fact of traffic at this point it’s just not good enough,” said Phifer.

The school district says it’s doing everything it can to fix the problem, but traffic is certainly a big contributing factor.

In an email sent September 12, 2018, a planning and routing official did a ride-along. They noted bus 5350 passed several Alonso stops, with just 15 students on board. The district says it’s using this type of information to actively make adjustments to the routes. They hope parents understand they do care and aren’t ignoring their concerns.

Tuesday, the district says out of 25 buses, only three were late — one arrived five minutes after the bell rang. They say three drivers called out and they are looking to hire at least one bus driver to fill a route.

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Pinellas County has the highest cyclist death rate in the Tampa Bay metro area, which has the highest rate of any metro region in the U.S., a report from the Wall Street Journal said.

According to numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide was 840 in 2016, a 35% jump from 2010.

Florida in particular has by far the highest per-capita bicyclist death rate in the nation, and the states of Florida, California and Texas account for about 40% of all cyclist deaths, according to NHTSA.

From 2007-2016, the report states that Florida's fatality rate for cyclists was 6.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, 59% higher than the next highest state.

The Tampa Bay area's fatality rate for cyclists was 7 deaths per 100,000 residents, the highest of any metro area in the nation.

“It doesn't surprise me at all," said Dr. Greg Schwaid. His father was hit by a drunk driver while riding his bike to work in 2016.

"Florida’s population is older and more densely packed, and the state gets a steady influx of tourists unfamiliar with local roads," transportation-safety consultant Pam Fischer, who wrote last year’s GHSA report, which examined bike-safety issues nationwide, told the Wall Street Journal. “You kind of mush it all together, and it helps us explain as best we can what’s going on out there,” she said.

Since 2014, state transportation officials reportedly changed standard width for bike lanes and launched a push to better light locations where nighttime crashes for pedestrians and bicyclists was high.

However, the paper reports that bike fatalities are trending up again this year, with 95 so far this year in Florida, six of those in Pinellas County.

“All the bicyclist feel for each other," said Dr. Schwaid.

Just days before this data came out, police agencies throughout the county launched a new campaign to put more officers in heavily biked areas. Funding is coming from state grants.

“I love hearing it. That's a much-needed area for improvement,” said Dr. Schwaid.

Unfortunately, Scwaid's dad won't see the changes because underlying issue combined with his injuries from the bike accident proved too much. He died last year.

"He would say I love this. He was passionate about bicycle safety," “said Schwaid. "The hardest part for me, missing him, is knowing he is never going to have a relationship with my son, who is two years old now.”

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PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A multi-million dollar pedestrian and bicycle trail is in the works in Pasco County.  According to county leaders, once the new Orange Belt Trail is in place, it'll make bike riding more convenient and safer. 

This is good news for riders like Hank Baum. He said he rides 38 miles a day along the Suncoast Trail. He'd like to go further, but he turns around every time he gets to State Highway 54. 

"It's not safe to ride the highways," Hank said. "It's a lot safer to have bike paths that go through these corridors." 

The Orange Belt Trail will connect to several other trails — including the Suncoast Trail — once it's completed. 

"It will be nice to have that ride only on trails so we don't have to worry about drivers, people texting when they drive, or other stuff," said Jacob Yundt. 

The trail will span 37 miles from the Pinellas County line to the Withlacoochee State Trail. 

The county plans to use the old CSX railroad corridor for the route. 

"There's already a road there, and it's not going to be as impactful to the environment as, say, building through a pristine wetland or something," said Pasco County project manager, Sam Beneck. 

The project is estimated to cost approximately 18 and a half million dollars. Most of the money is coming from the Penny for Pasco tax voters approved in 2015. The county is in the process of applying for state and federal grants for the rest. 

The project is currently in the design stage right now. The county will hold public meetings once that's done. 

Construction for the project isn't scheduled to start until 2021. 

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GIBSONTON, Fla. — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for a man who they say attempted to steal a motorcycle before jumping into the Alafia River to evade deputies.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, deputies are searching for a white male subject who attempted to steal a motorcycle around 2:55 p.m. Tuesday. When they approached him, he fled on foot and entered the water near 9812 Gibsonton Drive and swam away.

Deputies determined that the individual is no longer in the water but he has yet to be located. He was last seen near the Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve. There are no injuries reported. HCSO K-9 and Aviation are have responded to aid in the search.

No additional information has been released at this time. 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for a man who allegedly took off running after crashing a stolen vehicle into a river.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the subject crashed the stolen vehicle into the Alafia River in Riverview on Tuesday afternoon. Deputies say they began tracking the vehicle around 2:55 p.m. As of 4:22 p.m., the stolen vehicle was located but the driver has not been found.

Deputies say that the driver then fled on foot. Officials say no one was injured. 

K9 and Aviation units are in the area searching for the man.

No additional information has been released at this time. 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A multi-million dollar pedestrian and bicycle trail is in the works in Pasco County.  According to county leaders, once the new Orange Belt Trail is in place, it'll make bike riding more convenient and safer. 

This is good news for riders like Hank Baum. He said he rides 38 miles a day along the Suncoast Trail. He'd like to go further, but he turns around every time he gets to State Highway 54. 

"It's not safe to ride the highways," Hank said. "It's a lot safer to have bike paths that go through these corridors." 

The Orange Belt Trail will connect to several other trails — including the Suncoast Trail — once it's completed. 

"It will be nice to have that ride only on trails so we don't have to worry about drivers, people texting when they drive, or other stuff," said Jacob Youndt. 

The trail will span 37 miles from the Pinellas County line to the Withlacoochee State Trail. 

The county plans to use the old CSX railroad corridor for the route. 

"There's already a road there, and it's not going to be as impactful to the environment as, say, building through a pristine wetland or something," said Pasco County project manager, Sam Beneck. 

The project is estimated to cost approximately 18 and a half million dollars. Most of the money is coming from the Penny for Pasco tax voters approved in 2015. The county is in the process of applying for state and federal grants for the rest. 

The project is currently in the design stage right now. The county will hold public meetings once that's done. 

Construction for the project isn't scheduled to start until 2021. 

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TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The latest polls indicate Florida’s Senate seat is neck-and-neck between Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott. The governor’s race shows Andrew Gillum with a slight lead over Ron DeSantis.

So we ventured to Gaither High School for National Voter Registration Day see if some freshly turned 18-year-olds could swing the November votes.

Gaither High Class President Haley Zarcone said she understands democracy.

Zarcone was senator for her freshman year. She was then Vice President during her sophomore year and has been president two years in a row. She says she gets how important voting is.

“Every vote counts and one vote can sway,” she said. “I think more so information than bias is key.”

Tuesday, as her peers grabbed lunch, the nation’s newest adults in Hillsborough County also registered to vote, this time for the big leagues.

“If you don’t say anything then how is anybody going to know what you want,” student Dalyzia Jones-Foster said.

With the election six weeks away, Senate seat up for grabs and Florida’s next governor on the line, the 18-year-olds we spoke with said they won't just be our future, they‘re planning to determine it as well.

“Because it is up to us what happens next. What changes, what stays the same,” senior Chad Hence said. “At least be aware.”

Hence already registered over the summer. 

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