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Coworkers rally after family loses son

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image Ila Mae King and JR Diaz of America’s Carwash spearhead a fund drive to help the family of a coworker whose 5-year-old son died. Photo Penny Fletcher

Coworkers reacted quickly to help the family of the kindergartner who died Jan. 23 after collapsing at Cypress Creek Elementary School in Ruskin.


Coworkers reacted quickly to help the family of the kindergartner who died Jan. 23 after collapsing at Cypress Creek Elementary School in Ruskin.

Now the community is also being encouraged to assist.

Five-year-old Jose Maria Pinto-Rosa said he felt sick while in the lunch room and was walked to the nurse’s office.

His father, Victor Hugo Pinto, was called to go to the school while at work at America’s Carwash on Cypress Village Boulevard in Ruskin.

Known to his coworkers as “Hugo,” he said he arrived before paramedics and saw his son gasping for breath.

Approximately seven minutes after his father arrived at the school, the ambulance came and took the boy to South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center where he died, was the father’s statement.

The father told coworkers he did not know of his son’s having any prior medical conditions.,

“I know he took him for medical checkups and did everything he was supposed to do on a regular basis,” said his boss, JR Diaz, manager of the carwash. “I know that because he would ask for those times off work.”

Art Daven, owner of two America’s Carwashes and four quick oil stations in the Tampa Bay area, with headquarters in Lakeland, immediately gave all his on-site managers the green light to put up donation boxes on the counters at all six sites.

“Hugo is such a nice person,” said Ila Mae King who works in the office and behind the counter at the Ruskin car wash. “We hope the community will join with us in helping the family.”    

The parents,Victor and Denise Rosa, also have a three-year-old son at home.

Hired at the carwash four years ago, Hugo was such a good employee he worked his way up from washing cars to manager’s assistant, Diaz said.

“We’re hands-on working managers,” said Diaz. “But Hugo trains new employees and makes sure to direct them to do their best work.”

“We believe that there were medical issues involved, but we don’t have any indication that there was any infectious diseases involved,” said Hillsborough Detective Larry McKinnon. No foul play is suspected but a toxicology report has been ordered.

A Crisis Team was dispatched by the School District for one day, said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

“Due to the age of the children, they didn’t have a real grasp of what had happened,” Cobbe said. “The team encourages them to share their thoughts, tries to draw them out a little, even has them tell stories about their memories of the deceased or write letters to him, or to his family, if they wish.”

Sometimes the Crisis Team has the children draw photos of how they feel, which often relieves suffering they may be feeling inside and unable to express, Cobbe said.

A viewing and funeral were held Jan. 26 at Zipperer’s Agape Mortuary & Funeral Home in Ruskin.

To donate to the family contact America’s Carwash at 728 Cypress Village Blvd. (just off State Road 674) in Ruskin, or call them at (813) 634-9409.

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