Don Lewis' family says they're being re-traumatized simply because someone just discovered a nearly 18-month-old, unproven report claiming Carole Baskin's missing first husband is alive and chillin' on a beach.
Jack Smith, spokesperson for the Lewis family, tells TMZ ... Don's daughters firmly believe he's dead, and it's been extremely triggering for them to deal with the fallout of the resurfaced report, which they say is bogus.
We're told Don's daughters are being flooded with calls from strangers and even family members congratulating them on finding their father ... which brings back bad memories.
Social media started buzzing Wednesday over a 2021 interview with Carole about an alleged report the Dept. of Homeland Security found Don living in Costa Rica. As we reported -- back then and now -- that purported report was featured in the second season of 'Tiger King,' so Don's family has already been down this road.
Don's daughters tell TMZ ... "While we would certainly welcome the good news of our Dad being found alive, it's just simply not true."
The Lewis family says in late 1997, after Don went missing, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office -- which is in charge of Don's missing person's case -- told them a report existed from U.S. Customs stating Don had been seen in Costa Rica.
The family says that prompted Don's oldest daughter, Donna, and her husband to travel to Costa Rica in November 1997, but they never found him.
We're told the Customs report is the same one shown in 'Tiger King' -- the family believes it was doctored to reference DHS instead of Customs in order to support a false narrative about what happened to Don.