TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Rancho Los Magueyes operated as a destination for weddings, birthday parties and other events. Neighbors often complained about the noise, but nothing was done until six people were killed and another man was injured as they drove their car across train tracks at Jim Ledler Circle in Plant City.
Their car was hit by an oncoming train as they were attempting to get to a large birthday party on the other side of the tracks.
Now, Hillsborough County officials say they can find no records of Rancho Los Magueyes ever applying for the proper business permits to operate. As a result of the lack of permits and a failed safety inspection, the business has been shut down.
“This is a property that is just zoned agriculture. So, they haven’t pulled any permits and they are not authorized to participate in agritourism as far as we’re concerned,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen whose district covers Plant City.
Owen says he’s concerned about the safety of people entering the venue as they cross a narrow private road without a railroad crossing gate or any warning lights.
“If they have hundreds and hundreds of people there at a venue and you’ve got an unimproved road like that, where you have actually a line of people going over a railroad track, that’s unacceptable and I think they would have a hard time getting a permit from us for that,” said Owen.
After the fatal accident, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue conducted a safety inspection of the property.
“It is a pretty sizeable place, it had a kitchen, bathrooms, storage areas,” said Hillsborough Fire Marshal Tammy Zurla.
Inspectors found a number of safety issues related to the fire code during their inspection. A report from the county shows there is no water source to fight fires. The event hall does not have a fire sprinkler system or fire alarm system. There are no fire extinguishers and the building does not have the proper number of exits for such a large facility. An on-site kitchen also has a number of fire safety violations.
“From a fire side, there were a pretty numerous amount of violations,” said Zurla, who also noted no safety inspections had been performed before the accident because the county was never informed a business was in operation on the property.
“What concerned us is, we weren’t notified that it was there,” said Zurla.
“This is something that we are going to look into because I really don’t think that this place should probably get the permits to operate as a venue just because of the unimproved road and the safety issues that are here,” said Owen.
Several attempts were made to contact the owners of the property for a comment on this story. They have not responded to any of the attempts.