Two young girls were killed and another was critically injured in an apartment fire at 1052 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Long Beach, California early Friday morning. Long Beach firefighters knocked out the fire within five minutes of their arrival. The fire inside the converted garage apartment was reportedly caused by a portable heater. This is all according to an article in the Press Telegram.
The three sisters were immediately taken to Memorial Medical Center. Stephanie Aviles, 6-years-old and her sister Jasmine Aviles, 10, died there. Friday afternoon, Jocelyn Aviles, 7-years-old, was transferred to Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s burn unit which is much better equipped to treat Jocelyn and the only true burn center in the southern region of Los Angeles County.
This is one of those needless tragedies that takes young innocent lives. Please keep these three girls, especially Jocelyn, who is fighting for her life, in your prayers. Please add the girls names to prayer lists at your church.
Let’s look at what caused this fire in order to prevent further accidents. Let’s also look at how may be responsible.
The news reports did not mention the type of portable heater that the girls were using or give any clues to what actually went wrong. Did the heater malfunction and cause a fire? Was the heater placed to close to flammable objects? Here is probably where the cause and responsibility lay.
The Press Telegram reported that the living space where the Aviles girls were when the fire broke out was a garage illegally converted into an apartment. If true, the owner of the building may be civilly liable for the deaths and Jocelyn’s injuries. The Press Telegram also reported that the apartment did not have a smoke detector or a sprinkler system. Based upon these reports the owner of the property could be held responsible for Stephanie’s and Jasmine’s deaths as well as the millions of dollars in medical expenses and injuries suffered by Jocelyn.
There were more than 400,000 residential structure fires in 2006. These fires resulted in 2,620 deaths and 12,925 injuries . Over 47,000 of those fires were believed to be caused by heating systems or heating apparatus, such as space heaters.
It is highly advisable for the girl’s mother, Daisy Duran, to immediately hire a personal injury attorney or better yet a personal injury law firm to represent her and Jocelyn. Jocelyn will best be served by having the financial resources available to her to obtain the best care and all the care she reasonably needs. I would rather that the millions of dollars in care that Jocelyn needs be paid by any negligent parties, rather than the taxpayers of California.
Daisy Duran and her daughter would best be served by hiring a personal injury law firm that is experienced in fire cases, especially space heater fire cases and has fire experts that can be on the scene immediately to investigate and document the cause of the fire and any code violations.
In any product defect case, preservation of evidence is crucial. In this case preservation of the space heater is crucial to any claim against the space heater manufacturer and very helpful to any claim against the landlord.