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Florida alert: Escaped zebra crashes into truck in Wimauma, flees scene (w/video)

WIMAUMA — A 21-year-old driver was "a little banged up, but mainly just really surprised" after a zebra slammed into his pickup truck Friday, his sister said.

The hit-and-run crash happened about 2 p.m. at the intersection of County Road 672 and Amber Sweet Lane, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

The zebra was strolling along the side the road, deputies said, when it suddenly made a beeline for a Ford F-150 pickup driven by Nathaniel Jolley, 21, of Riverview.

The truck's side-view mirror broke, striking Jolley with glass shards.

The zebra sprinted into a nearby field. It took a Sheriff's Office helicopter nearly 2 hours to find it.

Deputies said they managed to safely corral the animal with help from employees of its owner, licensed animal exhibitor and fourth-generation circus performer Jennifer Caudill, 35.

The zebra was safely returned to its enclosure on Andrews Road, deputies said. Jolley was treated for minor cuts and bruises at Brandon Regional Hospital. He was "pretty calm, all things considered," his sister Kelsey said.

It wasn't the first time a zebra has escaped from Caudill's care.

In November 2015, Caudill and her employees "lost control" of two male zebras while dismantling their enclosure as they prepared to leave for a show in Philadelphia, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One of the zebras was quickly captured. But it took about two hours to find the second, which had wandered about 2 miles away.

Caudill earned her animal welfare act exhibitor's license from the USDA in 2009. In September 2010, though, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services division asked a federal judge to revoke Caudill's license after she was deemed "unqualified" to care for 37 tigers she purchased from another exhibitor.

She was allowed to retain her license after a court found those claims to be unfounded. Yet a 2014 inspection for Caudill's license renewal found that the travel trailer she used to transport dogs lacked a heater or air conditioner, records show.

Caudill was given 90 days to make the necessary changes to "provide for their health and well-being," the inspection report said. The results of the followup inspection were not available Friday. She could not be reached for comment.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

Florida alert: Escaped zebra crashes into truck in Wimauma, flees scene (w/video) 05/05/17 [Last modified: Friday, May 5, 2017 9:37pm]
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