David Szymanski was the assistant city manager of Gulf Breeze at the time who said the swing on the left in the below picture had lots of life left to it and I needed to take the video off the internet. David Szymanski apparently was involved in the attempt to cover up what happened in the city playgrounds owned by the city of Gulf Breeze.
The swing accident occurred in Gulf Breeze Florida, a small wealthy island like town in northwest Florida. The city of Gulf Breeze didn't feel safety was a priority within their public parks and playgrounds. This is the story of how Gulf Breeze city management and political leaders in Florida knowingly left dangerous swings hanging in public playgrounds throughout Gulf Breeze so kids and adults would get injured as chains became worn out to the point of breaking. Gulf Breeze city leaders had no playground safety inspection program in place, as a result the accident occurred causing injury to my spine and back which led me to become homeless. It's irrelevant this took place 9 years ago in Gulf Breeze as some have pointed out, rather its important as to why those who were responsible weren't held accountable and why Gulf Breeze leaders left their parks in these conditions. City officials of Gulf Breeze act as if nothing ever happened but indeed it happened to me.
A word about what happened from an expert on playground safety issues in Gulf Breeze
Scott Burton, President
Certified Playground Safety Inspector (C.P.S.I.)
Scott was notified after the incident occurred in Gulf Breeze and below is a copy of the email he sent to me giving his opinion.
Gulf Breeze is immune from common negligence but not from “gross” negligence. The conditions shown in the video tell me that they “knew or should have known” that the hardware was worn to the point it needed to be replaced. With proper inspections in place (which they may not have had), it would reveal these conditions and let them know to repair them. Playground safety rules by CPSC have been around since 1981, and those by ASTM since 1993. For any entity to say they’ve never heard of them tells me they had to have been living under a rock not to know. They knew!
Safety Play, Inc.
By; Scott Burton, President
Certified Playground Safety Inspector (C.P.S.I.), S.A.F.E. Certified
International Safety Consultant
Below are a list of questions I sent to the city of Gulf Breeze in June of 2017. Below the questions is how Gulf Breeze city manager Samantha Abell responded about the negligence the city and it's staff engaged in. Mayor of Gulf Breeze Matt Dannheisser and ex-city manager when this occurred Edwin Eddy (current city consultant) declined to respond.
1) How is it that a chain holding a swing in a public park owned by the city of Gulf Breeze was allowed to remain in a condition that a link would break as soon as someone used the swing?
2) How is it that 10 months went by and the other swing on the same swing set was worn to the point of being ready to break when used?
3) How is it that 10 months after an accident that caused great injury to a persons spine other swing chains in city parks of Gulf Breeze were in a condition to break when used?
4) How is it that those responsible for conducting safety inspections which you claim the city had in place at this time allowed to continue their employment with the city of Gulf Breeze after an accident occurred and further investigation showed other swings in these conditions?
5) Why did council member Joe Henderson request permission from the state attorney to carry a fire arm on his person while conducting meetings in city hall after the accident? What were his concerns of which he felt he needed to carry a gun?
6) Why did my attorney at the law offices of Eiland and Ritchie tell me that the city told us to go to hell after Florida League of Cities concluded their investigation? And why was it that Florida League of Cities didn't find the same swings our video found ready to break during their investigation?
7) Why is it that Ron Pulley, your head of parks and recreation is giving the testimony that he is if the city of Gulf Breeze feels they've done nothing wrong? Where is he getting his information if no wrong doing took place?
8) Why is it that the city of Gulf Breeze tries charging hundreds of dollars to comply with a public records request to the city with a stipulation that if during the search for records is considered to be worth more than the stated amount of money or too burdensome, more money will need to be paid otherwise the records search will end?
9) What influence does the city of Gulf Breeze have over the local media to the point that an accident of this nature as well as other unethical behavior by city officials wouldn't be reported to the general public to further keep resident safe?
10) What influence does Gulf Breeze have over politicians who represent santa rosa county to the point that their offices make statements regarding what happened and what continued to happen afterwards is out of their jurisdiction? Public playground safety should be everyone's jurisdiction to prevent unnecessary injury to people!
11) How is it that Gulf Breeze earned $64 million in fees issuing bonds to other cities between 2007 and 2012 but there were hazards left in city parks to injure people? Is that not enough money to replace worn out swing chains in several parks that the city owns?
12) How long would you say it takes for an industrial strength swing chain with a rating of 1000lbs to wear down to nothing and break? And why the chains holding swings in city playgrounds of Gulf Breeze were allowed to remain in a condition of breaking when used?
13) Why didn't Gulf Breeze follow the federal safety rules for playground equipment set by the ASTM and the CPSC? Does the city of Gulf Breeze just like setting human traps in their parks to injure people? Was it funny to city leaders that I was hurt when the swing broke?
14) Why is it that Edwin Eddy and David Szymanski told me on the phone in 2009 that they inspected the swings regularly but then their actions say they knowingly left them to break and injure people? Do these two men have it out for people in general, or were they specifically targeting me?
15) And who do you suppose made the anonymous phone call to me in 2010 which said I quote, "forget about the swing accident or you'll be sorry you ever stepped foot in Gulf Breeze". Not that I was worried because by then I was living in my car outside the area as a result of what the city did to me, eventually however for my safety I chose to go farther away from the area.
16) Are these type of standards written anywhere in the city of Gulf Breeze operating manual?
City manager Samantha Abell's answer to the above questions
Excerpt: "It is not easy to grasp when hard times befall good people"
I cannot answer all your questions. But do know that I've read each one. I cannot speak for events which occurred in the past, as I have no knowledge. There is no response which can reverse your fall. Yes, the city does inspect it's playground equipment. We take safety seriously. All the same, I hear you when you say you are frustrated and hurt. I do not understand all which has occurred in the years since your injury. I can offer only this: I am sorry for your fall. I am sorry for your hurt. I am sorry for your frustration, your hardship and anger. It is not easy to grasp when hard times befall good people. I wish I could reverse your hurt, but I do know you were created for a purpose, and I hope for your peace and joy in the future.
The city of Gulf Breeze refuses to release the 7 pictures police officers took of the accident scene. This would be considered evidence against this small city therefore they have kept them from public view.
Below you will find a response dated 4/11/2017 from the city attorney for Gulf Breeze after a public records request. Apparently according to him the city did not have a public playground safety inspection policy in place which led to this incident. Nor did they even try to purchase new chains for their swings because they wanted people to get hurt.
When this happened, I eventually found a lawyer that said he would help me but as soon as he got involved
Representative Clay Ford told me if I fired my lawyer he would help me. Clay said I would need to send a note to my lawyer saying I no longer wished to pursue damages against the city. He said once I've done this he would help me resolve it with the city himself. I followed Clay Ford's advice and then never heard from him again. I trusted my local representative and found myself without legal representation. The only legal representation I could find. Over the years since I never recovered, I would periodically reach out to city officials asking them to help me only to be ignored. I became homeless as a result of this accident and lost everything. Gulf Breeze, FL robbed me of my health and left me for dead because of bad laws and corrupt city management. I even received an anonymous phone call while living in my car in 2010. The caller said I needed to quit talking to the media about the swing incident or else I'd be sorry I ever stepped foot in Gulf Breeze. This is sick!
Below is a letter I sent to Edwin Eddy (city manager Gulf Breeze, Florida) and forwarded to Beverly Zimmern (mayor) on May 29, 2014. Neither one of them responded to the letter, however Beverly Zimmern resigned her position as mayor several months later after a 14 year career with Gulf Breeze, Florida.
May 29, 2014
To: Edwin Eddy City Manager
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Forward: Beverly Zimmern
Mayor Gulf Breeze, Florida
-Start of letter-
In case you were wondering, I'm still hurt because of your rotten swing that broke in McClure park in August of 2008. Every muscle in my back throbs with pain more times than not because you and your employees chose not to maintain your playground equipment for safety. I just wanted you to know that this has severely altered my life in a big way. To be more blunt, you stole my health from me and every time I hurt and continue to struggle, I think of you. MRI's show extensive damage to my spine as a result of that swing breaking and slamming me into the ground.
Anyway you look at it, what you did to me and what you chose not to do for me afterwards was ethically and morally wrong. I hope you can live with yourself knowing that your negligence ruined a healthy life all because you chose not to change a $20 swing chain before I stepped foot in your city park. I know we don't know each other personally but I could just as well been your family or friend ending up in a wheel chair because of the dangers you chose to ignore in your city parks. You purposely left a human trap for someone to come along and get hurt. You were being paid to manage but for some odd reason chose not to while collecting a pay check from the tax payers.
I won't go away until my pain goes away. It's your fault I have that pain. You could of allowed your insurance company to help me and I could of got the medical attention I needed but for some reason you denied me of that help. I constantly wonder why you have done these terrible things to me and I also wonder why you never chose to help me. I did nothing to you to deserve it.
-end of letter-
Later after the accident sometime in 2009, I made another attempt to call Edwin "Buz" Eddy the city's manager. He and his assistant city manager David Szymanski both came on the phone and said there was nothing they could do for me. They also said that the swing chains in the video had many years of life left to them (please watch the video and you be the judge of that). They became very aggressive towards me and said I should not of put the video online and demanded I take it down because they say the video doesn't show the truth. The assistant city manager also said that he inspected the parks regularly and could not find any safety issues with any of the swings. I truly believe that if he had done that, he would of saw the worn chains and replaced them before I was injured. This means that if he’s telling the truth, then he apparently wanted someone to get hurt which is criminal activity and he should be held accountable for it.
This is a letter Florida League of Cities sent after I had an attorney contact the city of Gulf Breeze Florida on my behalf
My attorney had a medical authorization form signed by me giving him authorization to retrieve my medical records to date as to meet the above request. I thought all these years he requested them and turned them over to Florida League of Cities, but as of April 19, 2017 according to a public record request I made with the hospital, my medical records had never been requested by anyone regarding this accident. Granted I didn't have medical insurance at the time and wasn't able to get the treatment I needed, there were records in the emergency room following the accident. I was also able to get approval for a program at Sacred Heart Hospital the summer of 2009 that helps the poor get MRI's. One was made showing extensive damage to my back muscles and spinal cord. I also had MRI's performed by employers in the Louisiana offshore industry that would show a perfectly healthy back years before the accident.
In May of 2009 this video was made to see if the city parks had any other dangerous swings remaining. See VIDEO HERE
A month later after the video was made the following letter was issued to my attorney by Florida League of Cities
I've often wondered how Florida League of Cities can say there was no negligence involving the accident when a dated video clearly shows swings 10 months after the accident in Gulf Breeze city parks in a condition to break when used. These unsafe conditions took decades to happen as solid steel chains and swing seat hardware cannot wear down overnight. If the city had safety inspections in place within their parks and recreation department, the city would of been aware of the same unsafe conditions which caused my accident and later shown in the video on May 2009 one month before the above letter was issued.
All city council members of Gulf Breeze between 2008 to present knew about this as well as all people & entities listed below. They all ignored what happened and said there was nothing they could do. The local media also refused to mention it alerting the public to the dangers in the parks due to personal relationships with their friends and neighbors who work for the city. The media's decision to ignore this was a major factor in why the dangerous conditions remained for so long after the accident. Friends or not, this was news and it was withheld by the local media from the public further causing dangerous conditions in playgrounds where children and families play.
Mike Gomez Audit Manager Florida Auditor General
The Florida League of Cities
Senate Ethics Committee WA, DC
Gulf Breeze News
Numerous Reporters Pensacola News Journal
Numerous Reporters WEAR TV
Don Gaetz and his assistant Megan Rice
Edwin Eddy - Ex City Manager Gulf Breeze, now paid consultant to the city
David Szymanski - Assistant City Manager Gulf Breeze
Ron Pulley - Director of Parks & Recreation Gulf Breeze
Lane Gilchrist - Mayor Gulf Breeze
Beverly Zimmern - Mayor Gulf Breeze
Matt Dannheisser - Mayor Gulf Breeze - Ex City Attorney
Curt Carver - Deputy City Manager Gulf Breeze
David G. Lanfair - Council Memebr Gulf Breeze
Cherry Fitch - Council Member Gulf Breeze
Joe Henderson - Council Member Gulf Breeze
Renee Bookout - Council Member Gulf Breeze
Bill Nelson - Senator Florida
Charlie Christ - Governor Florida
Rick Scott - Florida Governor
Pam Bondi - Attorney General Florida
Dianne Feinstein - Senator California
Jeff Miller - Senator Florida
Clay Ford - Senator Florida
Carol Hamrick - Florida League of Cities, Inc
Kaly Fox - District Aide to Senator Doug Broxson
Doug Broxson - Florida Senator, lives in Gulf Breeze
Frank White - State Representative
Charles Withers - District Assistant Florida Senate
Anna Higgins - Legislative Assistant Florida Senate
Tiffany Lorente - Secretary to Senator Flores
Anitere Flores - State Senator
Office of The Honorable John F. Simon Jr
Heather Robinson, Operations Manager Office of the Chief Inspector General
Florida Department of Management Services
ACLU of Florida
Virlindia Doss - Florida Commision on Ethics
Kaly Fox of senator Doug Broxson's office sent me an email this morning, see here
After looking into your situation I am sorry to tell you that we are unable to help in this situation, I suggest you contact an attorney.
District Aide to Senator Doug Broxson
418 West Garden Street, Box #2
4th floor - Room 403
Pensacola, FL 32502
This is the kind of response I've gotten from everyone I've ever contacted in state or city government because no one wants to take the responsibility or shed light on the things Gulf Breeze did
Florida League of Cities has been caught sending out no wrong doing letters like the ones above on behalf of the cities of Gulf Breeze, Pensacola and Winter Haven after each city engaged in negligence which lead to killing one man in Winter Haven, FL and injuring others in Gulf Breeze and Pensacola, FL.
Florida League of Cities claims they do investigations after negligent accidents however evidence has surfaced that proves they don't actually investigate anything, they only send out generic letters saying they do hoping to put an end to the incidents, saving the city costly litigation. There are 4 whistle-blowers who have come forward recently with evidence of cover up and corruption in Florida government pertaining to this.
Below is a story by a Florida newspaper of one incident that was said to be investigated by FLOC but actually never was before they sent out a "no wrong doing, no liability" letter to the family. This family has numerous documents which have been changed over time to hide the truth as well as voice recording of depositions by city workers caught in lies regarding her brothers death. Read story here: http://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20160425/News/608082310/LL/
A friendly Letter to the young people of Gulf Breeze Proper
You're all fairly young and I'd guess when these issues were brought to the attention of city hall, you all were probably being taken to these parks by your mom. But what you and your mom didn't know was that each one of you could of ended up in a wheel chair for the rest of your life.
With that said, I wanted to take a moment and tell you something. When a swing is being used and it breaks, you are in the sitting position. The impact to your spinal cord is no different than jumping off the roof of a house while trying to land in the pool, but BAM!!! you miss the pool and land on the concrete pool deck.
The scenario I just spoke of is stupid and crazy that anyone would jump off of a house, it should never be done first of all. But when venturing out to your local park as a child, you kind of have a built in trust mechanism; you trust mommy and you trust the park since its located in pretty Gulf Breeze. What happened to me was no different and I trusted the park wouldn't hurt me, only a few minutes after getting on the swing, the giant chain broke. This was not a stupid or crazy act on my part, its not like jumping from a house, I only wanted to swing.
The reason the swing broke was described to me like this:
The swing manufacturer told us that the swing in McClure park on that day in 2008 was designed to hold 1000 pounds. They further told me that it would never break if the swing were inspected on a regular basis "guaranteed". The reason he said was because Gulf Breeze is located with ocean air surrounding it. Each night a micro layer of rust settles on the swing chain. When used, that same micro layer falls off. After about 30 years of this, the chain is no longer there and broke. A swing chain has a lot of links and I didn't spot any which appeared as if it was going to break.
This thought had never entered my mind before I used that swing. I had full 100% trust in that swing and used it to enjoy myself. But what I got instead was a life of misery, homelessness, pain and suffering. I wasn't able to work anymore because my body was broken.
When I called Gulf Breeze city hall, no one would talk to me about the accident and ignored me. Ten months later, I returned to Gulf Breeze with a video camera. My mission was to find swings which were ready to break in our local parks. What I found will turn your stomach when you think that when you and mom were in those parks, your life was in danger but you didn't know it.
You know who did know?
The city and all its staff knew because there was an accident, I was hurt and they never bothered to go out and replace the other swings.
Now,,,,,, I cannot say if they ever did replace them since I became homeless and left the area. But I wanted to tell you about this because no one deserves to be hurt this way and I am still very hurt. Just because they may have fixed them since then, doesn't make what happened OK. My life was changed in a very big way. When I think about how the city was never held responsible, I try to think of how they can justify it. I'll give you an example here:
-Beginning of example-
Lets say, and this is only an example. Lets say a 14 year old girl or boy tells their mom that a man was touching them in the "do not touch" area since they were 5. Lets say for example the man worked at city hall, just an example and not real. Lets say for example your mom goes to the police and tells them as if this "example" was real. Lets say the police tells mom that its ok now because that was 9 years ago and the man doesn't do that anymore, "he promised". Should we just leave the man alone or should we hold him accountable for what he's done?
-End of Example-
Isn't this the same as leaving dangerous swings hanging in the local parks when Gulf Breeze Police knew, the city manager Edwin Eddy knew, all the city council members knew, the mayor knew, your current mayor knew because he used to be the city attorney, Ron Pulley the head of parks and recreation knew, the city assistant manager knew, Gulf Breeze News knew and wouldn't write about it. Everyone knew except you, your mom and dad and everyone else who lives in Gulf Breeze that doesn't work for the city.
Even though its been 9 years, they all still knew and didn't do anything to correct the issues of swings about to break after one did. MY life has been ruined, but in reality, MY LIFE MATTERS regardless of what the city and leaders think.
I hope that all of you share this with the people close to you and the people you trust. Because there are people who work for Gulf Breeze who you simply cannot trust and they may hurt you if you don't stand up to them and speak out.
Thank You for your time!
To contact us, you may do so by emailing us at:
Thanks for learning more about the negligent swing accident in Gulf Breeze Florida parks
The city of Gulf Breeze was very wrong for doing these things and laws need to change to prevent these things from happening again. Speak out and let your voice be heard by calling Gulf Breeze city hall at (850) 934-5100