Two families who leapt from third-story balconies to escape the Windsor Green fire filed separate lawsuits against the condo complex’s homeowners association and property management company this month, alleging in court records that the defendants did not take the necessary precautions to prevent the disaster.
The first lawsuit was filed last week by Brian and Krisha Alewine and a second lawsuit from Theresa and Doug Emminger was recorded at the Horry County Courthouse on Monday. Each family had two sons living with them in their condos at the time of the April 12 fire, which destroyed a condo building and left seven people injured.
Although the families have different attorneys, the lawsuits contain similar accusations.
The lawsuits state that the building had no sprinkler or fire alarm system and the fire blocked the exit, forcing the families to jump.
In the Alewines’ situation, Brian Alewine dropped his 3-year-old son into the arms of a teenager he didn’t know. The couple and their 10-year-old son then jumped. All suffered injuries in the fall.
The Emmingers also leapt from the balcony and were hurt.
Both families’ injuries included broken bones.
Although Horry County Fire Rescue officials said the cause of the fire could not be determined, the lawsuits state the fire was caused by a bird’s nest igniting in a light fixture by a second-story condo. An electrical failure or the heat of the bulb set the nests ablaze, according to the complaints.
The county fire department’s report does indicate that the fire began in a second-story breezeway near Apartment 201. The extensive damage and lack of physical evidence led investigators to label the cause undetermined.
It’s also true that the building did not have a sprinkler system.
Horry County Government spokeswoman Kelly Moore has said sprinklers were not required for that type of structure when the building was constructed.
But the lawsuits contend that the defendants should have removed the nests and made sure there were no problems with the lighting system.
“The Defendants acts and omissions caused, in whole or in part, the damages and permanent injuries suffered by the Plaintiffs,” the Emmingers’ lawsuit said. “This is negligence.”
The lawsuits also point out that the same complex suffered a devastating fire in 2013 and destroyed 26 buildings. When those condos were rebuilt, they were brought up to modern standards.
However, some of the older buildings, including the one that was destroyed in April, were not upgraded.
“The Defendants knew the Plaintiffs’ building did not meet local and state fire/building codes and that the Plaintiffs’ building and condominium did not have adequate means of escape and/or fire suppression or notification devices or systems,” both lawsuits state. “Defendants failed to warn the Plaintiffs of the potential risk of fires at the complex and/or of the lack of proper fire protection, suppression, notification, and/or detection devices or systems at the Plaintiffs’ building and/or their Condo.”
A representative for the Windsor Green HOA could not be reached for comment.