Deadly Apartment Fire, Dispute over Smoke Alarms

December 22, 2008 2:08:29 PM PST
Attorneys are questioning if a smoke detector was ever present in an apartment that burned down last July in Lemoore.The fire killed a young couple and three young children.

The family of those victims is now suing the apartment owner.

As you can see... The burned apartment has already been demolished and removed and the owners have started rebuilding.

Today, the attorney for the family of the victims says the property manager knew there weren't smoke detectors in most of the units.

Riza Poliquit remembers watching her daughter, Michell's, apartment burn down last July.

Michell Mattison, her fiancé Derik Faubion, their two-month old daughter Hayden, and Michell's two young siblings Lexus and Ariel were trapped inside and killed by the fire.

Riza Poliquit, Mother of Victims: "I miss all my children. I lost all of them and no one can replace the lives of my children."

These are pictures of Arnel Bisnar and Riza, watching the apartment burn.

The couple is suing Northgate Apartments for negligence, wrongful death and emotional distress.

They've hired Mick Marderosian, who is also representing Fresno State in the Stacy Johnson Klein case.

Mick Marderosian: "All of these lives were lost on the night of this fire, Riza and Arnel my clients it's a multi generational loss."

Marderosian says a letter written by the property managers to tenants 6 months before the fire states most of the units don't have a smoke detector and calls it a "major safety issue." the letter advises tenants to contact management to correct the problem.

Marderosian says the victims moved in after the letter went out.

Marderosian: "They had only lived in the unit for about 3 weeks and we examined the lease and the lease documents and there's no indication from the lease documents whatsoever that there was confirmation that there was a smoke detector in the apartment."

Bob Dowd, the attorney for Lemoore real estate which manages the Northgate Apartments, told action news, "It's the tenant's responsibility to indicate to property management that if [the smoke detector] was not working and it was noticed by the tenant, the tenant must advise property management so it could be immediately repaired."

Both Dowd and Marderosian say it's unknown if Michell and Derik contacted the manager about a smoke detector.

While Arnel and Riza wait for the lawsuit to play out in court...they're still haunted by the loss of their children.

Riza says she dreams about her granddaughter.

Riza: "She said Grandma I'm already talking and then she said You're my favorite grandma in the whole world."

Arnel Bisnar: "Almost every day we go to the cemetery or even by myself when I'm at work I just cry you know."

On Friday both sides will set a date for the trial which is expected to be in September.


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