FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CN) – The son of a woman who was eaten by a 12-foot alligator in a Florida park filed a lawsuit claiming town officials neglected to act on reports of gator activity at the property before the tragedy struck.
Katana Sato’s mother, Shizuka Matsuki, was walking her dogs at Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park in June 2018 when she was fatally attacked by the alligator, the court documents state.
Police found her dogs wandering the park, with no trace of her onsite. The gator was later trapped and internally examined, at which point authorities determined that Matsuki had been killed and partly consumed by the animal.
Matsuki’s son filed his lawsuit Tuesday claiming the town of Davie, which purportedly operates Silver Lakes Park, did not give visitors “sufficient notice or warning” that there had been gator sightings on the premises.
He says the town had been advised “on multiple occasions prior to this incident that there was at least one alligator in or near” the park’s waters. Town officials failed to take action to address the gator problem, the lawsuit states.
The wrongful death complaint was filed in Broward County Circuit Court by the estate’s attorney, John Getz with the law firm Morales & Cerino.
According to the lawsuit, Davie denied liability for the incident in an October 2018 letter.
Matsuki was a nature enthusiast, lover of reggae music and longtime South Florida resident who had moved to the state from Japan in the mid-1990s, according to a profile in the Palm Beach Post.
The Post reported that a string of alligator removal permits for Silver Lakes Park were issued but not carried out in the decade leading up to the incident.
Matsuki’s death was one of less than a dozen reported and confirmed fatal alligator attacks in the U.S. over the last four years, according to the Charles Darwin University-funded CrocBite database. It was one of the highest-profile gator attacks in Florida since a 2-year-old boy was dragged to his death at Disney’s Magic Kingdom resort area in 2016.
Davie sits roughly 10 miles east of a vast stretch of protected Florida wetlands, where the alligator population is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The town has not responded to a request for comment on whether, at the time of Matsuki’s death, signs were posted to warn visitors about gator sightings around the park.