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Watercraft operator was drunk in Whiskey Joe’s crash that killed two, lawsuit says

Helen “Teinell” Gore, mother of seven, was struck by an intoxicated man when their personal watercraft collided in May 2018, according to the lawsuit. Both died.
Helen “Teinell” Gore, 41, of Clearwater, died two years ago when her personal watercraft collided with another near Whiskey Joe’s on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Helen “Teinell” Gore, 41, of Clearwater, died two years ago when her personal watercraft collided with another near Whiskey Joe’s on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. [ GoFundMe.com ]
Published Apr. 22, 2020|Updated Apr. 23, 2020

TAMPA — A lawsuit has been filed by the family of a mother of seven who was fatally injured when two personal watercraft collided near Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill in Tampa in 2018.

Helen “Teinell” Gore, 41, of Clearwater, and Alberto Portales Fernandez, 42, of Tampa, died after the personal watercraft they were operating collided near Whiskey Joe’s on May 6, 2018, off the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

The Gore family lawsuit names Whiskey Joe’s as a defendant, saying Fernandez had a history of heavy drinking there and was “severely intoxicated” at the time of the collision.

The business knew or should have known, the suit says, that Fernandez had a propensity to recklessly operate his personal watercraft on its private beach, surrounding waters and submerged land, “thereby endangering other ... customers of defendant.”

A lawsuit says Whiskey Joe's on the Courtney Campbell Causeway knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated man who drove his personal watercraft into another, killing both drivers.
A lawsuit says Whiskey Joe's on the Courtney Campbell Causeway knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated man who drove his personal watercraft into another, killing both drivers. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2013) ]

The business served Fernandez “multiple alcoholic beverages on multiple occasions knowing he was habitually addicted to alcohol,” the suit says. Both Fernandez and Gore were customers at Whiskey Joe’s the day of the collision, according to the lawsuit.

Whiskey Joe’s also placed private anchor buoys without obtaining permits adjacent to its private beach as a way to control the speed and direction of customers operating personal watercraft, the lawsuit says.

An attorney for Whiskey Joe’s did not respond Wednesday to an email and a voicemail left at his office.

The wrongful death suit was filed April 3 in Hillsborough Circuit Court on behalf of Gore’s sister Sonya Gore of Largo, as representative of her estate. The names of Gore’s seven children, now ages 4 to 28, are also listed. Representing the family is attorney Michael Valen of Tampa.

The suit seeks compensation for loss of services, mental pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses, and other damages under the Florida Wrongful Death Act.

On the day of the collision, Gore had gone to the Courtney Campbell Causeway for a Sunday family gathering, according to a GoFundMe account set up online to help pay her funeral expenses.

“Teinell lived her life to the fullest and one of the most free-spirited women we have known,” said her oldest child Keosha Gore, who created the account. “She was a caregiver for a number of years and loved helping people.”

“She continues to help others by donating her organs and saving over 68 lives.”

Names as defendants alongside Whiskey Joe’s are its owners and those who leased the beach property to them. The defendants include Specialty Restaurants Corp. of California and members and beneficiaries of the Julian H. Lifsey Jr. Revocable Trust of 1988.

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Correction: In earlier versions of this story, the name of the attorney representing the Gore family was incorrect.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report.

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