Bronx fire that claimed 17 lives leads families to sue building owners

A number of families lost loved ones while trying to escape from a Bronx apartment block filled with smoke sued its owners Tuesday. They alleged safety violations that resulted in the deaths of 17 people, eight of them children.

Bronx fire that claimed 17 lives leads families to sue building owners

Benjamin Crump (a Florida-based civil rights attorney) and Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York law firm, filed the five lawsuits on behalf of the families.

Crump stated that "a lot of families paid such a tragic cost in the apartment fire," during a press conference outside the building. He said violations of city safety regulations "caused unspeakable death and injury to these families, most of them from Africa".

An electric space heater that was not working properly set off the fire, according to firefighters.

Although the fire only damaged a small portion of the building's structure, it created caustic smoke which quickly engulfed the entire complex. As people tried to escape, the suffocating smoke rose from the 19-story building's stairwell and killed them.

Crump was the spokesperson for the family George Floyd.

Superior Court in Bronx named Bronx Park Phase III Preservation and Bronx Phase III Housing Co. as defendants in the lawsuits.

The lawsuits don't specify monetary damages or specific safety violations.

Larry Goldhirsch, another attorney representing the families, stated that these details will be identified over the next few weeks. This includes malfunctioning door springs, and windows that would not open.

A spokesperson for the building owners denied that they were responsible.

James Yolles, spokesperson for the company, stated that the complaints today claim that the tragic fire of last month was caused by negligence on the part of the building's owners. "We believe that the facts will prove this allegation false."

At the news conference, several relatives of fire victims spoke out to vent frustration at the uncertainty caused by the fire and to offer their support as they search for new homes. Some remain in hotel rooms.

"What happened Jan. 9 was extremely devastating, tragic, and unexpected. It could have been prevented. My sister was killed in the fire. Fatima Janneh, whose 27-year-old sister Sera was also among the victims, said that she was trying to reach down to save her family.

"We need justice for all the victims' families, and the tenants of the building." Janneh stated that we are all victims of what happened here.

Plaintiffs include the mother and father of a 2-year old boy, and their 12-year-old son/daughter and their 5-year-old daughters. A 20-year old mother was also included, her 3-month-old son was in hospital.

Many of the residents were Gambian immigrants. They shared their common origins with some hailing from the same village which helped to foster a close-knit community.

Although Tuesday's lawsuit was not filed to allege civil rights violations, it was one of many already filed for the victims and their families. However, some families claim they feel forgotten and marginalized.

"We may be Black, brown, African, or immigrant, but our class is working class and we are not disposable. We are not disposable. "You can't throw us away simply because we have a certain socioeconomic standing," Fatiah Touray said. She moved out of the building after 23 years.

Residents have complained about the living conditions in their apartments, which led to the necessity of space heaters.

Yolles stated that some residents have agreed to relocate into Twin Parks North West's development next to the damaged building.

Yolles stated that they continue to work round the clock with their property management, social services and relocation assistance teams in order to support and aid Twin Parks North West residents after last month's tragic fire. They also provided them with numerous high-quality options for moving to the Bronx.

The occupants of the apartment where fire broke out fled in a rush to flee and left their front doors open.

The spring-loaded hinges that were supposed shut the door automatically failed to work. The 15th floor had a second door that was left open at the stairwell. This act as a flue and draws smoke upward.

Fire investigators stated that both doors should have been self closing to contain the smoke spreading, but they remained open. It wasn't clear whether the doors had failed mechanically or manually.

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