|Article Last Updated: 11/04/2005 04:20 AM|
|Owner charged in fire that killed mother, 3 children|
|DANIEL TEPFER firstname.lastname@example.org|
|BRIDGEPORT — The owner of a West Side apartment house, where a mother and her three children perished in a June fire, was charged Thursday with contributing to their deaths.|
Hai Pham, 37, of Iranistan Avenue, was charged with four counts of negligent homicide and four separate counts of violations of the state fire code.
Police said the fact that the apartment had no working smoke detectors, had bars on the inside of the windows and an escape route that was nailed shut could have meant the difference between life and death for the victims.
Pham surrendered at police headquarters Thursday morning with her lawyer, Bill Goveia.
"It's an unfortunate situation all the way around," Goveia said.
If convicted of the charges, Pham could face up to six years in prison. She was released on a $10,000 cash bond.
Thirty-five-year-old Thi Luong Thach and her children, son, Hoang Anh Thach, 14, and daughters Thi My Trinh Thach, 11, and 3-year-old Daisey Thach died in the June 13 fire.
Thach's husband, 37-year-old Rinh Thach, was severely burned but survived after an extensive stay at Bridgeport Hospital.
His lawyer, John Lacava, termed his client's recovery as a "near miracle," and said Thach is living in the city with relatives while he recovers.
Lacava said they expect to file a lawsuit against Pham for the fire and he said he believes his client's family would be alive today except for the fire-code violations in the building. "They are directly related," he said.
The fire broke out shortly after 4 a.m. in the kitchen of the Thach's second-floor apartment at 1647-1649 Iranistan Ave.
According to police and fire investigators, Mr. and Mrs. Thach awoke in their rear bedroom at the smell of smoke.
Confronted by a wall of smoke as they entered the kitchen, they escaped out the rear door and down the stairs. Once outside, Rinh Thach ran around to the Iranistan Avenue side of the building to get back into his apartment through the front, where his children were asleep in their rooms.
Meanwhile, his wife, braving the thick smoke and flames, ran back in through the rear door.
Investigators said the husband was unable to enter the front door because it was locked, so he raced around to the rear. As he started to climb the stairs, he collided with Jackie Gonzalez, 28, who was desperately fleeing her third-floor apartment with her three young children. Gonzalez convinced Thach it was too dangerous to go back to his apartment, and in a panic he ran back toward the front of the building, only to collapse on the sidewalk.
Firefighters attempted to get to his wife, who was trying to reach her children as the third floor collapsed into the second-floor kitchen.
His wife's body was found on her bedroom floor. In a second bedroom, firefighters found the Thach family's elder daughter dead in her bed. The 3-year-old, was found lying outside her crib in the same bedroom.
In the front bedroom, their son was found lying on the floor next to his bed.
According to the autopsy reports, the victims died from smoke inhalation.
In her report, Police Detective Kimberly Biehn said that no smoke detectors were found either in the second or third-floor apartments.
In the son's bedroom, a French-style glass pane door leading to the front stairway had been nailed shut from the inside and was blocked from the outside by a large dresser, she said. The windows of that bedroom were encased with homemade security bars that were bolted shut and could not open for escape.
Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.