of popular Esther’s restaurant in north Miami-Dade dies trying to
fix septic tank
Esther’s — a family-owned business — has operated in South Florida for 50 years, and boasts four local locations. Gil was one of several family members who shared ownership and oversaw daily operations at the eatery at 777 NW 103rd St.
A day earlier, Gil and a family cousin had worked together to try to fix the malfunctioning septic tank. A day later, Gil opted to descend into the tank himself, his sister said, rather than bother the cousin on a Sunday.
“He fainted right away when he went down there,” sister Martha Spillers said.
Rochny Jules, a 20-year-old cashier at the restaurant, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that he heard screams for help and scrambled into the tank to save his boss. Before him, Jules said another person had attempted to save Gil but couldn’t fit into the underground manhole where the owner was passed out on a ladder.
Jules said he successfully crept into the manhole but was then overcome by the fumes himself. Jules was ultimately pulled out of the tank by other employees.
“I felt weak,” Jules said. “I couldn’t go back because of the gas. I passed out for a couple of minutes.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Jules was mentally scolding himself.
“I tried to help him,” Jules said. “But I feel like I didn’t do enough.”
Gil was taken to North Shore Medical Center, where he died.
The Cuban-born Gil arrived in the United States when he was 5, and graduated from Miami Springs high school. A standout baseball player, Gil played center field at the University of Miami and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1981, according to both the family and various historical baseball websites.
A knee injury and a disenchantment with the grind of playing in the minor leagues ended Gil’s baseball career, his sister said. So Gil devoted himself to Esther’s, a business run by the family of his high school sweetheart-turned-wife, Diana.
The couple had a son and a daughter, and more recently, two young grandsons.
Last month brought not one but two milestones for Gil — his 50th birthday and his 30th wedding anniversary. The whole family would regularly spend time together in the Florida Keys — eating, fishing, and playing dominoes. Gil was an avid dancer.
“Everybody loved him, he was the life of every party,” said Gil’s sister. “He was just a great guy, it’s really hard.”