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Family of woman, 85, killed by alligator at Spanish Lakes Fairways sues community

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The family of an 85-year-old woman who was killed by an alligator while walking her dog near a retention pond has filed a lawsuit against the St. Lucie County retirement community where she lived, claiming the community knew about dangerous alligators lurking in the water but failed to take any action.

Gloria Serge was walking her dog along the retention pond behind her Spanish Lakes Fairways home on Feb. 20, 2023, when a 10-foot-long alligator grabbed onto her foot and dragged her into the water, where she drowned.

A trapper hired by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured and killed the gator.

Jon Shainman/WPTV

Authorities help load a 10-foot alligator that killed Gloria Serge, 85, onto the bed of a pickup truck, Feb. 20, 2023, at the Spanish Lakes Fairways community in St. Lucie County, Fla.

The attorneys representing her family filed a lawsuit Thursday morning, alleging that the Wynne Building Corp., which developed and manages Spanish Lakes Fairways, is to blame for what happened.

Gary Lesser, managing partner of the law firm Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith PLLC, told reporters during a news conference that Spanish Lakes Fairways knew there were dangerous alligators in the water behind Serge’s home.

“In fact, the neighborhood named this particular alligator Henry, and they named it Henry because the alligator was seen so often on the shores of this retention pond,” Lesser said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured an alligator at Spanish Lakes Fairways in St. Lucie County that attacked and killed a resident walking her dog.

WPTV

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured an alligator at Spanish Lakes Fairways in St. Lucie County that attacked and killed a resident walking her dog.

Lesser said residents and staff routinely fed the alligator, but the community did nothing to stop it.

“Amazingly, Spanish Lakes actually posted no warnings about the existence of these dangerous alligators they knew about,” Lesser said. “There were no warnings to its residents in the weekly newsletters that Spanish Lakes sent to its residents.”

After the fatal attack, Lesser said, community members claimed warning signs were being constructed.

“That’s a little too little, a little too late to save or bring back Gloria,” Lesser said. “A recent visit to the property revealed no signs warning of the alligators had been placed yet.”

Gloria Serge poses for photo with children

Courtesy of Bill Serge

Gloria Serge poses for a picture with her children, including son Bill Serge (second from right, above), in this undated photograph.

Lesser said Spanish Lakes Fairways “encouraged their residents to socialize by the retention pond.”

“They placed community benches on the shores of the water,” he said. “They allowed boats and fishing and even small docks.”

Furthermore, Lesser said, Serge was “forced” to walk her dog by the retention pond.

“Spanish Lakes is one of these communities that has a rule – you can’t walk your dog in the streets of your community,” he said. “In fact, Gloria was given a violation and eviction warning for walking her small dog in the front yard of her house.”

Serge’s son, Bill Serge, attended the news conference, telling reporters that he couldn’t have imagined “the agonizing way in which my mom spent the final moments of her life.”

Bill Serge speaks with tear in his eye during Jan. 25, 2024, news conference announcing lawsuit against Spanish Lakes Fairways after mother Gloria Serge killed by alligator

Eric Pasquarelli/WPTV

Bill Serge speaks with a tear in his eye during a Jan. 25, 2024, news conference in West Palm Beach, Fla., announcing a lawsuit against Spanish Lakes Fairways in St. Lucie County, Fla., after his mother, Gloria Serge, was killed by an alligator in 2023.

“No child should have to bury their mom under such horrible circumstances,” he said. “This was a tragedy that was 100% preventable, so I stand here today on behalf of my mom to share her story in the hope that this will never happen again.”

WPTV investigative reporter Dave Bohman went to the Port St. Lucie headquarters of Wynne Building Corp. seeking comment about the lawsuit but did not get a response.

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