4 survivors of deadly San Marcos fire join lawsuit against property


Highlights

The lawsuit accuses the apartment owners and managers of gross negligence and wrongful death.

Survivors were awoken that night by the sounds of screams, not fire alarms, their attorneys say.

Four people who were injured while escaping a deadly fire at an apartment complex in San Marcos last month have joined a lawsuit filed by the father of a man who was killed in the blaze.

Apartment residents Benjamin Munoz, Abril Cardenas, Christina Martinez and Pablo Torres have joined Phillip Miranda, the father of fire victim James Miranda, in suing the owners and managers of the Iconic Village Apartments for gross negligence, premises liability and wrongful death.

The lawsuit, amended Monday, says the property’s fire alarms “failed to effectively activate to warn all residents.”

“The apartment complex did not have functioning fire sprinkler(s) and/or suppression system in place,” the suit says.

Five people were killed, including 23-year-old James Miranda, and several others were injured in the July 20 fire.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Death toll rises to 5 after San Marcos apartment fire, officials say

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of failing to enforce adequate safety protocols, maintain a safe living environment, adequately inspect and test fire alarm systems, train its employees and warn of dangerous hazards at the apartment complex, among other claims.

“As a result of the defendants’ actions and inactions, multiple residents were trapped and killed in the apartment fire,” court documents say.

Additions to the suit include descriptions of that night from the survivors, who said they were “awoken by the sounds of breaking glass and the screams of those burning alive — not to the sound of fire alarms,” according to a statement from Houston-based law firm Arnold & Itkin, which is representing the five plaintiffs.

Martinez was asleep in her apartment when the fire broke out, the suit says, and awoke to the sound of screams. She grabbed her pet and woke up another person who was sleeping before she escaped.

“As Ms. Martinez was rushing to escape the flames, she could hear the screams of individuals coming from apartments engulfed with flames,” the lawsuit says.

She also sustained injuries to her knees, legs and other parts of her body, the suit says.

Pablo Torres and his girlfriend also were sleeping when the fire happened, the suit says. His girlfriend woke him up when she heard glass breaking and smelled smoke, the document says.

“Despite the extensive amount of smoke and flames, no fire alarms and/or smoke detectors went off,” the suit says.

He broke an apartment window to escape, along with his girlfriend and dog, and injured his arms, back and other parts of his body, the suit says.

Munoz and Cardenas are Texas State University students. Munoz said in a statement that Iconic Village was one of the most affordable communities near campus, and while it “wasn’t a luxury property,” he assumed it was safe.

“They’re taking advantage of us because we don’t have money,” Munoz said. “So many people there were students scraping pennies to make rent. To charge us what they charged and not keep us safe — it’s wrong.”

ALSO READ: 3 victims in San Marcos fire were Texas State students, officials say

Munoz and Cardenas were trapped by flames in an apartment on the second floor of the complex, the lawsuit says, and jumped from a second-story window to escape.

They both sustained injuries, the suit says, including a broken leg, broken ankle and injuries to their backs, neck, and other parts of their bodies.

Munoz said he is now living with his parents because “he lost everything in the fire and broke his leg and ankle trying to escape.” He was supposed to graduate this month, but will have to finish classes in the fall because of the fire.

He also proposed to Cardenas.

“After the fire, he decided ‘life is too short,’” the statement says. “He proposed before going into surgery for injuries sustained in the escape.”

Cardenas said yes.

The five plaintiffs are asking for a trial by jury and are seeking more than $1 million in damages.



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