Slain Florida club victims' estates to get R4.7m each

2016-09-28 07:07
People wait down the street from a multiple shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (File, Phelan M Ebenhack, AP)

People wait down the street from a multiple shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (File, Phelan M Ebenhack, AP)

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Orlando — Each of the estates of the 49 patrons killed in the gay nightclub massacre in Orlando will receive $350 000 (about R4.7m) from donations raised for the victims, an official with the OneOrlando Fund said on Tuesday.

But at least half of the deceased patrons have family members or partners who are fighting over claims as money from the fund is being distributed this week for victims of the worst mass shooting in recent US history.

"We do have a number of disputes amongst families of the dead," said Alex Martins, chair of the OneOrlando board and also president of the Orlando Magic basketball team. "It's parents in dispute with a partner, who perhaps they didn't know, or it's estranged parents, claiming each one of them should receive the funds."

No funds will be distributed on those claims until the disputes are resolved, and if they aren't resolved soon, the claims will be sent to probate court to sort out who receives the money, Martins said.

The $29.5m in the fund will be distributed to 299 claimants, with more than half of the money going to the estates of the deceased victims.

Thirty-seven patrons who required hospitalisation will receive $65 000 to $300 000, depending on how long they were in the hospital; eight victims were in the hospital for more than 24 nights and will receive $300 000 each.

Another 31 injured patrons who required outpatient treatment each will get $35 000, and 182 patrons who were at the club but weren't injured will each get $25 000.

There were 44 claims rejected because they either were duplicates, fund administrators were unable to determine that the applicant was in the club or there were no records of them being hospitalised, Martins said.

Gunman Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group. He was killed after a three-hour standoff during an exchange of fire with Swat team members.

A patron who survived the massacre asked a judge on Tuesday for a second time to issue a temporary stop to the distribution of the money until an audit is conducted. The judge denied holding an emergency hearing but scheduled a hearing for next week.

Jillian Amador, who fled the nightclub but saw her friends killed, said there should be an audit of the OneOrlando Fund before the money is distributed. Without an audit beforehand, there is little recourse if errors are found later, she said in her petition.

OneOrlando officials have said an audit is planned in the weeks after the money is distributed. The fund was a venture of the city of Orlando; the gay rights group, Equality Florida; the LGBT Community Center of Central Florida; and a fund run by the National Center for Victims of Crime. It received donations from 150 000 individuals and companies in more than 120 countries.

"If there are any problems with the distribution or any problems with the way the money is handed out, there is going to be no recourse to get it back," said Paul Zeniewicz, Amador's attorney.

Amador works as a paralegal in Zeniewicz's law firm.

Amador's complaint won't stop the distribution of the money, and an audit at this stage would miss examining how the money is distributed, Martins said. "Obviously we would abide by a court order, but until that has occurred, if it were to occur, the distribution has already begun," he added.

Read more on:    us  |  orlando shooting

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