PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Just days before Christmas last year, a mother of five was killed after a fire started at a Palm Harbor gas station. Now her family is filing a lawsuit that alleges the gas station employees failed to act.
Sheryll Cabballes was pumping gas at the Circle K on East Lake Road in Palm Harbor when another driver hit the fuel dispenser. Cabballes was pinned between her vehicle, the ground, and the fuel dispenser.
The 103-page civil lawsuit names 13 defendants. It alleges that Cabballes' two children tried to save her but couldn't.
The incident on December 22 turned deadly when the dispenser pumping fuel from the station's underground tanks continued to supply fuel which ignited a roaring fire.
Attorney Ben Whitman said Circle K employees failed to intervene, and the fire became fatal. He said employees failed to trigger the emergency stop switch, which would have cut off fuel to the pump immediately and could have saved Cabballes' life.
"We do know one thing for certain; they did not press the emergency stop button. There are multiple emergency stop buttons in this fuel station, and any of them could have been pressed that would have stopped the fuel flow from the underground tanks to the dispenser and would have stopped this fire in an instant," said Ben Whitman, a personal injury attorney with the Clark Foundation Law Firm.
Whitman said Circle K and its contractors destroyed critical evidence by discarding the shear valve that should have stopped the fire. They also failed to preserve the nuts and bolts used to secure the fuel dispenser to the ground, said Whitman.
"The fuel dispenser is fixed to the ground with bolts and nuts. In this incident, the fuel dispenser, some parts of it were ripped out of the ground where it was bolted down; the connective hardware was also thrown away and discarded," he said.
Whitman said the victim's children suffered excruciating pain as they watched the fire kill their mother.
"The magnitude of this loss, the magnitude of the tragedy this family went through is unconscionable, and the magnitude of the loss is only matched by the magnitude of the actions of those who could have prevented it," said Whitman.
ABC Action News reached out to the attorney for Circle K but has not heard back yet.