FORT PIERCE, Florida (WPBF) — Gloria Serge’s son described her as healthy, strong and vibrant before she was killed by an alligator while walking her dog near the pond behind her home.
The 85-year-old woman had lived in the Spanish Lakes Fairways community for almost 30 years before Feb. 20, 2023.
Serge was walking her dog, Trooper, in her backyard by a retention pond when a 10-foot-long, 700-pound alligator attacked her and dragged her body into the water.
“I never could’ve imagined the agonizing way my mother spent the final minutes of her life,” Bill Serge, Gloria’s son, said. “The sudden, violent nature of this attack, thinking about my mom in her final moments, resulted in a whole different level of all-consuming grief.”
The attorneys with Lesser, Lesser, Landing and Smith filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Gloria’s estate against Wynne Building Corporation, the company that owns Spanish Lakes Fairways and four other communities in south Florida.
“If Spanish Lakes had taken any measure of common sense and reasonable action, Gloria would be here today,” Gary Lesser said.
The lawsuit alleges Spanish Lakes knew about the alligator but failed to notify and protect residents.
“Residents and community staff fed this alligator,” Lesser said. “Our investigation found that residents and staff fed the alligator chicken and other food from their lunch on a regular basis.”
Residents in the community also reportedly referred to the alligator as “Henry” because of how frequently he was spotted in and around the retention pond.
The lawsuit alleges no signage was posted around the water, nor was a warning issued to residents in their weekly newsletter.
Gloria Serge’s family and attorneys say she had to walk her dog behind her home near the lake because it was against community rules to walk a dog in an area that was not a designated pet area.
She was issued an eviction warning in January 2020 for walking Trooper off her property in the neighborhood.
“Being evicted wasn’t really an option for this 85-year-old woman,” Joshua Ferraro said.
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The Serge family attorneys say the alligator qualified for the state’s SNAP Program, which allows FWC-licensed trappers to remove alligators deemed nuisances.
Nuisance alligators are typically categorized as an alligator deemed dangerous that is longer than 10 feet.
Alec Wynne with the Wynne Building Corporation said he could not provide further comment about allegations made today because they had not yet received the lawsuit.
Below is a statement from Joel Wynne, the President of Wynne Building Corporation, which was released after the incident in February 2023:
“We are saddened and shocked by the terrible accident that occurred to a resident. The unfortunate person had been a resident at Spanish Lakes Fairways for more than twenty years. Encounters with alligators in Florida are rare, but by no means unheard of. In the past, we have removed those alligators reported to be of danger. We respect wildlife and try to do what is reasonable for everybody. To the best of our knowledge, no resident has ever been harmed in the 50+ years that Spanish Lakes has been in existence. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
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