Death notifications after Parkland shooting were slow and insensitive, families say

The state commission investigating the Parkland school shooting turned Wednesday to the aftermath of the massacre, when family members said death notifications were handled in a sluggish, chaotic, insensitive manner.

Debbie Hixon learned of her husband Chris’ death when her phone starting beeping with condolence texts from friends who read about it on Facebook. She threw her phone across the room. Hours later she received the official word.

Tony Montalto and his wife, Jennifer, were brought into a glass-walled room off a hospital cafeteria, where everyone around could watch their reaction to the death of their 14-year-old daughter, Gina.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, meeting on Wednesday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, heard of mistakes, chaos and bureaucratic insensitivity on the night of Feb. 14, 2018, as family members of murdered students and staff received the terrible news.

They described a horrifying scene at the Coral Springs Marriott at Heron Bay, where families were told to go for word of loved ones. Their numbers dwindled as students and staff who had fled the school turned up.

As the remaining families waited to be brought to a smaller room one by one for news of loved ones, they could hear screaming and crying coming from the room.

“It was like waiting to be slaughtered,” one family member said, according to a presentation by one of the commission’s investigators.

Family members and members of the commission said they did not blame the officers on the scene, who they said did their best under the policies and leadership they had to live with.