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Family sues business over scuba-diving accident

The family of a double-leg amputee who died in a March 1995 scuba-diving accident has filed suit against the Land O'Lakes Scuba Center. The family of the late Garrett Westphal Sr. said the 67-year-old's death was caused by the negligence of the center and its operators during a dive west of Anclote Key. Their lawsuit, filed last week in Circuit Court, said that Westphal, as an amputee, required constant supervision while he dived. On the day of the accident, however, the center diver accompanying Westphal, John Myers III, left him unattended for a portion of the dive, the lawsuit said. At some point, Westphal tried to swim to the surface. In the process, the suit said, he died of a heart attack. Also named in the suit were Myers' father, John Myers Jr., who owns the diving center. Phone messages left at the diving center Monday and Tuesday were not returned. The lawsuit also names Joyce Gordy, a certified diving instructor for the center; Walter Putman, a certified-diver in training; and Joe Robinson, who owned the ship from which the excursion took place. Also named are the Handicapped Scuba Association and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which had certified John Myers Jr. The suit seeks unspecified damages of at least $15,000.

School Board faces suit

based on reported assault

NEW PORT RICHEY _ The mother of an 8-year-old girl at Mittye P. Locke Elementary School has filed notice that she intends to sue the Pasco County School Board for damages related to a sexual assault the girl said happened at the school last year. The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her daughter, said the girl was touched in September 1996 by a boy in her class. The incident was reported to school officials, who moved the girl to another classroom. Pasco County Sheriff's officials investigated the child's claims last year but did not pursue criminal charges against the boy. Both children were sent to counseling at the time, officials said. An attorney for the woman said school officials failed to provide adequate supervision and protection for the child while she was at school. The suit will seek damages for physical, mental and emotional trauma the child suffered from the incident and medical expenses incurred from it, according to a letter of intent sent to the School Board. Attorneys for the school district had not seen the letter and could not comment.