A top aide to Florida Gov. Rick Scott died late Sunday in a boating accident in the Florida Keys, a day before the GOP governor announced his bid for the U.S. Senate this November.
Jereima Bustamante, 33, suffered severe blunt force trauma after the 18-foot Maverick skiff she was riding in crashed into mangrove branches on the banks of a narrow channel in the village of Islamorada, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Bobby Dube told Florida Keys News, a Miami Herald subsidiary.
She was pronounced dead at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
Bustamante was the Florida governor’s longtime press secretary and was slated to transition to Scott’s Senate campaign team as the GOP millionaire prepares to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
“It is with true sadness that we learned today of the passing of our long time Press Secretary, Jeri Bustamante, who faithfully served in our administration for many years,” Scott’s office said in a statement Monday. “Anyone who ever spent time with Jeri knows what a terrific and selfless person she was. Her personality filled rooms and hearts. We grieve with her family today.”
Three other people were on the boat with Bustamante. They survived, though the extent of their injuries is unknown.
Bustamante carved out a name for herself in the political world working with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera when they both worked at the Miami-Dade property appraisers office. When Lopez-Cantera joined Scott on his 2014 governor ticket, Bustamante tagged with the campaign.
“Jeri was a part of our team for many years,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement Monday. “She was a joy to work with and cared tremendously about her family, her career and the Floridians she served. I met Jeri when working as Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser and witnessed her passion for media relations firsthand. My family and I are grieving with Jeri’s family and those closest to her.”