LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A family member of one of the victims killed in a fire at a downtown Las Vegas apartment building is taking action against the owner and operator of the building.
Tracy Ann Cihal, a 57-year-old widow who died last month while trying to escape from the blaze at the Alpine Motel Apartments, was one of six victims killed in the Dec. 21 fire.
Cihal’s sister-in-law, Deborah Cihal Crawford, has filed the first wrongful death lawsuit in Clark County District Court against Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC, the owner and operator of the Alpine Motel Apartments. The lawsuit is also against the apartment’s managing member, Adolfo Orozco. The lawsuit cites negligence and wrongful conduct that led to Cihal’s death.
“The injuries and death of our client and the other victims of this fire are inexcusable — and we believe, preventable. The owners and managers of the Alpine – and other properties around Las Vegas – appear to have been far more concerned about taking money from their tenants than they were about their safety. It is inconceivable that residents of the Alpine were forced to endure the conditions of this complex. As alleged in our complaint, the most basic, minimum standards of living and habitability were denied to our client and other victims of this tragedy. We will work to hold these defendants accountable for their pure indifference to human life and safety.”
The fire reportedly started from a cooking stove used as a heater. Residents reported the building wasn’t warm enough.
Ray Nichols lives next door to the Alpine. He said, “Nobody should have even lived in there … they died because of pure negligence.”
Nichols knew many of the victims and said he would sometimes do work at the complex.
“From doing the plumbing repairs in there, you could see the drywall was missing, all the open wood,” he revealed.
An inspection report released Tuesday stated violations at the apartments included missing smoke alarms, an exit door that was bolted shut, defects in the fire alarm system and fire doors that did not close properly.
“There were complaints in the past; there were complaints shortly before this tragedy by Cihal, expressing concern and inhabitability on this property, and that will all unfold,” noted Ravipudi.
Nichols witnessed his friend who died, maintenance worker Donald Bennett, be carried out. He said this could have been prevented, “It hurts. I am not happy about it .. it just seemed like nobody cared.”
In all, 13 people were seriously injured and six people, including Tracy Ann Cihal, lost their lives. Cihal’s body was reportedly found in the main hallway near the barricaded back exit door.
Her family’s attorney said they also plan to investigate the living conditions at the other several locations owned by Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC.