Several Orlando Shooting Victims Tied to Travel Industry
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
In the early morning hours of Sunday, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was the target of the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, where 50 people were killed and another 53 injured.
Now, the identities of the victims are being revealed to the media, and their ties to travel have left the entire industry in complete shock.
According to CNN.com, several of the victims were closely associated with the industry, including a travel planner, employees from Universal Studios Orlando and Disney and a former worker at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
One of the first victims identified was 34-year-old Edward Sotomayor Jr., who worked at Al & Chuck Travel as a national brand manager. The company catered to the gay community, and Sotomayor was one of the faces of the company.
“He was one of our tour leaders, known for wearing his top hat, and for being a really nice guy,” Robin Ziegler Suess shared on social media. “He was also a tour leader on our recent Caribbean cruise in January, where I had the honor of wearing his top hat.”
Another victim of the senseless massacre was 22-year-old Luis S. Vielma, who worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal Orlando. Felipe "Tony" Marrero also worked at Universal Studios as a ride attendant, and he was shot several times and remained in critical condition, according to NBCNews.com.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this morning's tragedy,” Universal Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Williams said in a statement. “We stand ready to help our community in any way we can.”
Universal also issued a statement specifically about Vielma, saying, "We are deeply saddened over the loss of our team member. We are working to support his friends and colleagues here at Universal Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with Luis, his family, and all the victims of this tragedy."
Reports from park guests indicatred that the ride upon which Vielma worked, Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey, was closed for part of Sunday.
The theme park industry was also hit hard when the news that Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, was among the dead. He worked at Disney Live in the Mickey's Rockin' Road Show, according to a blog dedicated to the victims.
The media also learned Sunday that one of the victims, 25-year-old Enrique Rios, was previously an employee at LaGuardia Airport with his friend Rayvon Murray Johnson.
“Was such a funny and cool dude. He used to tell me, 'Don't let world hold you back from your dreams,” Johnson posted on Facebook. “We use to talk about curry and God. ... My heart is heavy, sleep well my brother.”
Several travel organization have issued statements in regards to these horrible attacks. The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) said earlier today, "Our hearts go out to the victims, friends and families impacted by Sunday’s horrific attack in Orlando. We are sickened by the violence and hate on display and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Florida members, the broader travel and tourism industry and the LGBT community in condemning this attack and supporting those who need our support during these difficult times."
In addition, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association issued a statement late Sunday saying, "IGLTA and its global membership are shocked and saddened by the devastating mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We stand in solidarity with our members and friends in Orlando and send our condolences to all of those whose lives were touched by this violent act.
IGLTA is unwavering in its belief that tourism helps to build a more welcoming world. As communities around the globe celebrate Pride this month, it is even more important than ever for all of us in the travel industry to support inclusiveness and unite against those who would have LGBT people live in fear."
More information continues to pour out about the victims in the terrorist attack. In response, Orlando area tourist attractions are on “high alert” following the massacre, and everyone in the area is remaining vigilant despite the devastating situation.
For more Impacting Travel News
More by Donald Wood
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Features & Advice
Airlines & Airports
Destination & Tourism