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Texan whose husband died by hot tub electrocution at Mexican beach resort files wrongful death suit

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An American tourist was killed and his wife hospitalized after being electrocuted in a hot tub in a Mexican beach town earlier this week, an incident that prompted the family to sue the resort for wrongful death and negligence, their lawyers said Saturday.

The seriously injured woman, 35-year-old Lizette Zambrano, filed the lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages from the U.S.-based resort operators from her hometown of El Paso, Texas, on Friday, days after being medevaced from the hot tub at the resort town of Puerto Peñasco, an hour south of the border.

The Arizona-based defendants, vacation rental provider Casago International and travel company High Desert Travel, did not respond to a request for comment on the suit, which holds them responsible for faulty electric wiring in the hot tub that caused the couple's electrocution and 43-year-old Jorge Guillen's death.

On top of failing to prevent and warn guests about the hazards of the hot tub, the resort managers also failed to react quickly enough to the emergency, the claim said.

The tragedy unfolded when Zambrano, her husband Guillen and several other family members arrived at the Sonoran Sea Resort, a complex of high-rise condos, on Tuesday for their vacation, the lawsuit said. Zambrano and Guillen headed to the hot tub to watch the sun set over the sea.

They didn't know an electric current was rippling through the hot tub water.

“It's absolutely terrifying,” Tej Paranjpe, attorney at the Houston-based firm PMR law, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The moment that Guillen dipped his foot inside the hot tub, the current zapped him. He tumbled into a direct electric circuit and quickly became trapped underwater.

Zambrano jumped in to rescue her drowning husband, then was jolted by the current and sucked in, too, according to the lawsuit. Cellphone footage from the incident shows the beachfront pool deck descending into chaos as shrieking guests raced over, tried to help the couple, then discovered the danger of the hot tub water.

While a guest managed to drag Zambrano out of the water, efforts to retrieve Guillen with poles and various metal tools only unleashed electric shocks on more and more people, the lawsuit said.

“There was not a single staff member that did anything while Jorge was getting continuously shocked again and again underwater,” Paranjpe said.

Ten minutes passed, Zambrano’s lawyers said, until workers at the resort responded to vacationers’ cries for help. The manager eventually succeeded in retrieving Guillen from the bottom of the hot tub, but it was too late.

Zambrano was flown by helicopter to Phoenix, Arizona, and was discharged from the hospital on Friday.

Mexican prosecutors in Sonora state reported that investigators were looking into “the origin of the electrical failure" and would conduct field visits in the coming days.

Hot tub electrocution due to faulty underwater lighting and flawed pumps remains rare, but experts warn that vigilance is needed to ensure equipment is properly maintained.

Between 2002 and 2018, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reported 47 incidents involving injury or death in hot tubs, pools and spas in the country.

Editor's Note: In our initial report we incorrectly used a photo of the Sonoran Spa Resort. The incident happened next door at the Sonoran Sea Resort. We have replaced the incorrect photo and we regret the error.

Correction: A previous version of this article from The Associated Press misstated where the man died. It was a hot tub, not a Jacuzzi.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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