They celebrated her birthday with a late night cruise through the Intracoastal Waterway on a powerboat dubbed Blue Steel. Nothing too daring or adventurous; they would only be out for a few short hours.
They ended up bloodied and confused on a dark jetty near the end of the inlet at Port Everglades. Lauren Silagyi, who was celebrating her 33rd birthday on Dec. 30, fell onto the jagged rocks and ended up with a traumatic brain injury. She has since undergone two brain surgeries, including a craniotomy to relieve the pressure from a buildup of blood and spinal fluid in her skull, according to a lawsuit filed in Broward County against the boat’s pilot, Daniel Towriss.
She’ll never be the same again, according to her attorney Jack Hickey. Silagyi is suing Towriss, the CEO of an insurance company with $37 billion in assets and the owner of the 42-foot Hydra-Sports Custom boat. She’s seeking more than $100 million in damages, Hickey said.
“I don’t think she’ll ever return to work. She’ll never return to 100% functioning,” Hickey said. He’s a Miami maritime attorney who specializes in cases involving traumatic brain injuries. “The thing about a brain injury that is this severe is you lose yourself, you lose your personality.”
The lawsuit alleges Towriss had a cocktail and “a portion of two to three bottles of wine” before getting behind the wheel of the luxury powerboat, and had another cocktail while he piloted the vessel. They stayed out on the water for about an hour and a half before setting to return around midnight.
No one kept a lookout as Towriss drove, the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, Towriss was driving the speedboat so fast it planed over the water and Jarret Silagyi, Lauren Silagyi’s husband, had to grab ahold of the boat to avoid losing his balance.
Towriss missed the turn into the port on the first try, and tried circling back, the lawsuit says. On the second try, the boat plowed into the unlit jetty and landed at a precarious angle, wedged against the rocks. Dealing with the unstable boat was complicated, and rescue crews used struts to secure it in place and to keep it from falling onto them.
Eric Schwartzreich, one of Towriss’ attorneys, said it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. He stressed that Towriss was not intoxicated during the crash.
“This had nothing to do with alcohol or negligence on Mr. Towriss’ part and had everything to do with the dangerous conditions of the jetty that are responsible for the accident,” Schwartzreich said. “When there’s an accident, sometimes people are looking for blame. Sometimes blame is put in the wrong place.”
Schwartzreich said he’s confident his client won’t face charges in the lawsuit, which accuses Towriss of operating the boat negligently.
Hickey is confident Towriss will have to pay for the losses Silagyi and her husband have suffered from the crash.
“It’s so reckless, to get into a million dollar boat with 1,700 horsepower and four outboard engines, and taking a big boat up on a plane going very fast while carrying passengers and after drinking, apparently not knowing where you are or really how to use the boat’s GPS and radar,” Hickey said. “It’s just the heights of recklessness.”
A new model of a 42-foot Hydrasport Custom boat can retail for close to three-quarters of a million dollars, according to Boattrader.com. It is unclear where or when Towriss bought the boat, but under state law, owners have up to 30 days to register new boats with their local tax collector’s office. A state wildlife commission report shows that the documentation for the boat’s registration was pending.
Silagyi and her husband knew Towriss and his fiancee from the boating industry in Indiana, where Towriss and the Silagyis hail from. Jarret Silagyi is the president of Portside Marine Sales and Service, a Cicero, Ind., boat dealer. They were in South Florida celebrating Lauren Silagyi’s birthday, Hickey said.
The website of Group 1001, the $37 billion insurance company, lists Daniel Towriss as its president and CEO. Towriss, 48, bought a Fort Lauderdale waterfront mansion in 2016, according to county property records.
All four of the boats occupants were injured in the collision, including Towriss’ significant other, Cassidy Rudman, 25.
Lauren Silagyi suffered a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury, brain bleeding, a broken nose, permanent facial scarring and disfigurement, and a fractured right leg and ribs. She underwent two brain surgeries and surgery on her leg, and will “struggle with the physical and emotional consequences of her injuries for the rest of her life,” the lawsuit says.
Jarret Silagyi was knocked unconscious in the fall and also suffered head trauma, cuts on his lip and a broken nose. He also faces the prospect of permanent impairments.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is still investigating the crash.
These days, Lauren Silagyi spends her days carefully, resting at home in Fishers, Ind.. She was going to rehabilitation, but hasn’t been able to recently due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hickey said.
“We don’t know what her permanent condition is going to be,” Hickey said. “When it’s that severe, there’s going to be permanent effects on the brain. And she’s not herself. These are life-changing injuries.”
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