Weeks after a three-alarm fire enveloped a Bronx apartment building, six families have aligned to take action. Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump has signed on to represent the interests of those that lost loved ones in one of the worst residential disasters in New York history.
Crump has filed five separate lawsuits on behalf of the six families with relatives who were killed by the fire. The families hired the attorney and the New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg to sue the building’s owners for not being mindful of alleged safety violations that led to the wrongful deaths of 17 people, including eight children.
The lawsuit also alleges “reckless disregard,” Al Jazeera reports.
In a tweet discussing the lawsuit, Crump stated, “Safety violations & the owners’ negligence killed victims of last month’s horrific Bronx apartment fire! Residents tried to ESCAPE the blaze, but unsafe conditions failed them! The mourning families deserve justice for this unspeakable loss of life!”
On Jan. 9, a huge fire at the 19-story Twin Parks North West claimed the lives of 17 people. Eight of the casualties were minors, and were from a large community of African immigrants. Many of those impacted by the fire came from Gambia and other West African countries.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the mother of a 2-year-old male toddler who died; the parents of one 12-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter and the 20-year-old mother of a 3-month-old infant, who was hospitalized because of the fire. Listed as defendants are the Bronx Park Phase III Preservation, the Bronx Phase III Housing Co. and three investment groups.
Crump shared another tweet adding, “Many victims of the deadly Bronx fire were just beginning their lives when the catastrophic tragedy STOLE their futures! We HAVE to prevent this kind of horrific situation from happening again, and that starts with a lawsuit to hold those responsible accountable!”
During a Feb. 8 press conference outside the building, Crump shared more on the importance of representing the families. “These [are] Black families who lost so much, that seemed to be marginalized not only before the tragic fire broke out, but even in the aftermath. And that’s why we are taking this stand, to say that their lives matter. We can’t marginalize them, just sweep this under the rug.”
“This is about investors coming to the Bronx, letting these people die in these buildings because they’re not interested in the people,” Larry Goldhirsch, Crump’s co-counsel said at the press conference. “They’re interested in profit. This profit over people, that’s what this case is about.”
Crump said that because the owners violated the city safety rules, the families experienced “unspeakable loss of life and injury,” including the loss of toddlers.
The lawsuits were filed in Superior Court in the Bronx, and do not mention monetary damages, nor do they mention specific safety violations. This is different from the lawsuit filed by two people who survived the blaze last month. They are aiming to secure $3 billion in their case.
Some of the families are represented by Larry Goldhirsch. His firm states it will provide specific details surrounding what allegedly caused the fire in the upcoming weeks. He shared that malfunctioning door springs and windows that could not open are at the top of the list of violations they will present for their clients.
At the press conference, several family members of the fire victims said that they remain unsheltered after the horrific fire displaced them. One who spoke was Fatima Janneh, the sister of Sera Janneh, 27, who died in the blaze.
She said, “What happened on Jan. 9 was very devastating and tragic, and very unexpected, and could have been avoided. I lost my sister in the fire. She was trying to come down to save my family.”
She continued, “We need justice for the families that lost people, as well as the other tenants in the building. We’re all victims to what happened here.”
The owners deny culpability and through their spokesperson James Yolles said the “allegations are false.”
Yolles said, “The complaints filed today allege that last month’s tragic fire was caused by the negligence of the building’s owners and their agents. We believe the facts will show that allegation to be false.”
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