Families of 49 killed in Orlando massacre to get $350,000 each

Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, who was killed in the Pulse attack, is joined by two of his friends who survived the massacre, Brandon Wolf (L) and Jose Arraigada, as she addresses the delegates during the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 2. Family members of those killed and survivors of the attack will receive money from the OneOrlando Fund. File photo by Pat Benic/UPI

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 27 (UPI) — Families of the 49 people killed in the Orlando nightclub massacre each will begin receiving $350,000 starting Tuesday from a fund set up for the victims.

Also, the 37 survivors of the June attack will receive from $65,000 to $300,000 each, depending on how many nights they were hospitalized, officials announced Monday.The 31 who received outpatient treatment will each get about $35,000. And 182 club-goers who were in the club but escaped physical injury will receive about $25,000 each.

The money will be distributed from the OneOrlando Fund, which now stands at about $29.5 million. The money will be divided among 299 families and survivors whose presence in the club was verified by the FBI.

“While no amount of money will ever erase the horrific events of that day, we are hopeful support from the OneOrlando Fund will help victims and their families with the healing process,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, who was asked by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to serve as chairman of the OneOrlando Fund board of directors.

Fund administrator Ken Feinberg said the money will be electronically transferred starting Tuesday.

“Anything I get, I will be grateful,” said Chris Littlestar, who was shot five times and spent nine nights in the hospital. “I’m just glad the hospitals decided to waive their bills and that the IRS has said they won’t tax this money. But mostly, I’m just glad I’m still alive.”

Feinberg said more than half of the families of the 49 victims haven’t settled who deserves the money and their distribution will be delayed.

“We are already involved in a Battle Royale between completing claimants who want the money — biological parents vs. same-sex partners, divorced spouses demanding they get the money to the exclusion of the other spouse, siblings of the dead coming in claiming that a parent was absent … or never had anything to do with the victim,” Feinberg said.

Christine Leinonen, whose son, 32-year-old Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, died in the shootings, won’t get her share immediately.

“The probate court is telling me it’ll be year or two before it’s through their system,” she said. “I have to prove to the court that I’m the personal representative, that I paid for the funeral, that [Drew] doesn’t have any kids out there. … But at least his friends who were in the club will get some compensation. And I know they couldn’t go back to work for a while. They experienced what people in war do.”

A request for an injunction that called for an audit of the fund to take place before any money is distributed was denied by a judge on Friday.

The fund includes more than $9.5 million raised through a record GoFundMe campaign by Equality Florida, a gay and transgender civil rights group.


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