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Why South Florida Can't Have Nice Things

Sammy Mack

We all know South Florida can be a pretty weird place, and it's something of a holiday tradition for news organizations around the state to put together lists of the weirdest stories of the year.

We decided to go straight to the people on the front lines, WLRN's anchors, producers, editors and reporters, and ask them what they thought were the most bizarre Florida stories of 2012. 

Some stories were funny, others perplexing and some macabre.

Arguably the most bizarre news event to take place in South Florida this year was the incident on the MacArthur Causeway where a young man attacked and chewed off the face of a homeless man.

That story topped WLRN-Miami Herald News anchor Phil Latzman's list:

"Here's the way to cap this off. It doesn't exactly keep people away. It sort of adds to the lore of the region when these things happen. It's weird, in this parallel universe people look at stories like that and say, 'wow, that's such a strange, whacky place, I've got to visit it!'"

suitcases nuttakit.jpg
Credit nuttakit / freedigitalphotos.net
What's in the suitcase? The human condition, that's what.

WLRN special projects editor Sammy Mack picked the story about two women who went through customs at Miami International Airport with two fetuses in their luggage as the weirdest South Florida story of 2012. Apparently, taking fetuses through customs is not illegal. 

"And on top of it, once El Nuevo Herald got the story, the customs agents and the people involved seemed so blase about this, like, if you work in customs at Miami International Airport and two fetuses don't freak you out, you have seen everything there is to see about the human condition."

Social Media Editor Danny Rivero said a series of freak accidents made up the weirdest, and one of the saddest, news stories of the year.

“One day in March where over a 24 hour period 10 people, including an unborn baby were killed in car accidents in Miami Dade and Broward counties. 10 deaths happening on the same day really took everyone aback.”

For reporter Christine DiMattei, one of the strangest news events centered around Florida Governor Rick Scott:

"It’s one of those, ‘glad it wasn’t me moments.’ That was in mid-October. There was an outbreak of fungal meningitis in Florida and during a press conference Governor Rick Scott gave concerned citizens a phone number to call for updates. But, he got one digit wrong and he was actually sending callers to an adult phone sex line.” 

manatee rider.jpeg
Credit Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
Turns out, this is illegal.

Reporter Kenny Malone's top pick was a story out of Pinellas County where a woman was caught on camera trying to ride a manatee.

"The Pinellas County Sheriff calls a press conference. The media show up and he has this picture of a woman, not a particularly skinny woman, in a bikini and what looks like riding a manatee in the water. He says, we are looking for this woman, riding manatees is a very serious offense.  He is quoted as saying, ‘go ride a jet ski, don’t use animals.’ Eventually the woman, Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, turned herself in. It turns out that riding a manatee is finable and also punishable by jail time.” 

WLRN-Miami Herald News Director Dan Grech had a "personal" news event that he said rivals all the other bizarre news in Florida. This October, Dan's daughter, Iris, was born. And while this anecdote is not exactly lady-riding-a-manatee weird, it's a good excuse to put an adorable photo of the youngest WLRN team member on our website:

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Credit Dan Grech
Okay, okay. Florida can have some nice things. Just make sure she learns to not ride manatees.

"Every evening Iris is inconsolable. She is crying, she is frantic, she can’t eat, she can’t sleep, she can’t calm down. And, the only thing that will get her to stop crying is squats. The kind of squats you do in the gym where you kind of have your butt touch your ankles. Every night since she’s been born—I don’t know how I discovered this—I have been doing squats throughout the evening to keep her calm.”