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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A civil trial involving a tourist who was run over on Ft. Lauderdale Beach by a lifeguard got underway Tuesday morning with opening statements and the first witness to take the stand.
Rinda Mizelle was visiting Ft. Lauderdale from North Carolina six years ago when she claims a member of the beach patrol drove over her in an SUV.
Mizelle was sunbathing near a lifeguard stand with her face covered when she says she felt something hard on her body.
“It was dark and I heard an engine” she told jurors Tuesday.
Because her face was covered, Mizelle says at first she didn’t know what had happened.
She thought she had been run over by several All-terrain vehicles.
“I thought I was going to die. But then I screamed as loud as I could,” she says.
Police said that the driver of the Ocean Rescue vehicle had just finished speaking to a lifeguard at the rescue stand when she got on her vehicle, made a right turn, and drove directly over Mizelle.
The first person to take the witness stand was Ocean Rescue Lt. Tracy Moll who described what happened the day of the accident.
“I was taking off and accidentally straddled the plaintiff,” she told the jury. “I heard screaming and realized she was under my truck. I am pretty sure she touched the undercarriage.”
Mizelle was pulled from underneath the vehicle and taken to Broward Health Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. Police reported that she suffered lacerations on her arms and legs, but was treated and released a short time after.
Mizelle claims she has permanent neurological damage from the accident and is in constant pain.
Mizelle’s husband and son testified that the pain has been debilitating and has altered her life.
Before the accident, Mizelle’s son said his mother did hangliding, surfing, and strenuous gardening work.
“And now poof, it’s all gone” said Donovan James.
Mizelle’s husband Darren told the jury, “our life has changed. The accident is always in conversation. It’s like a cold. It stays with you.”
“She’s in pain. It’s dull sometimes it’s severe. If she uses her arms she’s in pain,” he added.
During his opening remarks Mizelle’s attorney, John Phillips, told the jury that she is in constant pain and has lost her active lifestyle.
An attorney for the city said they accept responsibility for the accident but countered that Mizelle’s own doctor says she has a full range of motion and has no permanent scars or nerve related issues from the accident.
“If you look at the facts, she was not run over by the tires,” said Jeffery Lawley.
The civil trial will resume Thursday with the city planning to put two witnesses on the stand.
Afterwards, a jury will decide what if any money Mizelle should be awarded for her injuries.