With a crowdfunding campaign to raise memorial expenses for a Huntington Beach victim of the Las Vegas shooting massacre having already exceeded its $50,000 goal by more than $27,000, questions are being raised about the young woman's father also seeking to have funeral expenses covered via a wrongful death lawsuit.
Gus Castilla filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court that blames Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino operator MGM Resorts International, concert promoter Live Nation and bump stock maker Slide Fire for the death of his 28-year-old daughter Andrea Castilla.
She was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival celebrating her birthday with her boyfriend, sister and a friend on Oct. 1 when a gunman on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay opened fire and Castilla became one of the 58 who died that night.
The lawsuit alleges the resort operator did not properly maintain safe premises, calling the response time of hotel security to the shooter's room too slow. Live Nation security is also faulted in the complaint for the venue becoming a "killing zone." Slide Fire is named for creating a device that essentially turns semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic ones.
Live Nation and MGM Resorts International issued statements that near identically said their thoughts and prayers are with the massacre victims, that they are working with authorities in Las Vegas and that they will respond to the litigation in the proper forum. Moran, Texas-based Slide Fire has not commented.
Gus Castilla's lawsuit seeks damages from the companies that includes an unspecified sum for funeral expenses, something that is also being raised through a GoFundMe page created Oct. 3 by Andrea's aunt, Marina Castilla Parker. As of Monday afternoon, $77,777 had been pledged toward the $50,000 goal.
But news of the lawsuit prompted this response on the site from someone identified as Angie Campos: "I would like to bring up something that is quite disconcerting. There is a news report saying that the victim’s family is suing the hotel for wrongful death and while I understand, I wanted to ask about why funeral expenses are also being sought as a part of the lawsuit, if you’ve got hundreds of donors here who donated and you guys had to pull either little or nothing out your pockets... with that in mind, isn’t it unfair to be collecting donations and yet citing in the lawsuit that you want to be reimbursed for expenses? Please explain because it not only lacks sense, but it doesn’t sound good at all."
Marina Castilla Parker did indeed explain: "Angie, thank you for your feedback. I believe this is part of the catch-all of a wrongful death suit. Be assured that the family will not claim expenses that they personally were not out of pocket on. How the funds received from this site are used [is] being meticulously accounted for.
"The family is very appreciative of the support that they have received including from the state of California and Nevada," Parker continues. "Two of her siblings and her father are self employed so the GoFundMe funds have helped them take some time off to grieve the loss and murder of Andrea."
Parker later promised to provide an update on the lawsuit and the intentions behind it.
Her response came a day after the celebration of Andrea Castilla's life. "We were happy to be able to capture Andrea's beauty and essence in the public celebration," Parker writes. "None of this would have happened without the support we received from her friends, the community and supporters like yourself. Thank you again from all of us that loved her so deeply."
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Later, the aunt received backup on the site from someone identified as Bonny Randy Bohart, who said that she lost a son suddenly five years ago, so she knows that funds raised in online campaigns don't cover all the expenses at hand or yet to come.
"GoFundMe is so helpful in that funds to cover these unplanned immediate expenses can be covered here and do allow her father and siblings the ability to grieve and participate in the task of burying this sweet girl," Bohart writes. "After the Castilla family has completed all of the necessary tasks that come with losing a loved one, they will be able to address how to make Andrea's death not be in vain."
She added that lawsuits are often written by lawyers while the family is still dealing with the loss.
"No amount of money can give them back something so dear that was taken so abruptly from them," Bohart writes, "but I can assure you that they have no intention in misusing the very generous funds that were donated by friends and coworkers of Andrea Castilla to her family. No amount of money can replace the care she would have so graciously provided to her father in his old age or her siblings who had already lost their mother. I hope they remember to include in their own immediate needs some counseling on where to go from here after such a an abrupt and tragic loss."