|Article Last Updated: 11/30/2005 09:15 AM|
|Landlord pleads not guilty to fire deaths|
|DANIEL TEPFER email@example.com|
|BRIDGEPORT — Looking small and meek as she stood in the center of the courtroom, the owner of a West Side apartment house where a mother and her three children perished in a fire in June pleaded not guilty Tuesday to contributing to their deaths.|
Hai Pham, 37, of Iranistan Avenue, pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano to four counts of negligent homicide and four separate counts of violations of the state fire code. She elected a trial by jury.
The judge continued the case to Dec. 14. If convicted Pham could face up to six years in prison. She is free on $10,000 bond.
Pham and her lawyer, Bill Goveia, declined to comment as they left the courtroom after pleading.
Police said the apartment had no working smoke detectors, had bars on the inside of the windows and an escape route that was nailed shut. Any of those could have meant the difference between life and death for the victims, they said.
Thirty-five-year-old Thi Luong Thach died with her 14-year old son, Hoang Anh Thach, and her daughters, Thi My Trinh Thach, 11, and Daisey Thach, 3, when fire broke out in their Iranistan Avenue Apartment on June 13.
Thach's husband, 37-year-old Rinh Thach, was severely burned but survived after an extensive stay at Bridgeport Hospital.
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, the Thach parents awoke in their rear bedroom at the smell of smoke.
Confronted by a wall of smoke as they entered the kitchen, they escaped through the rear door and went down to the outside rear 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 ran back in through the rear door, braving the thick smoke and flames.
Investigators said the husband was unable to get in through the front because it was locked, so he raced back around to the rear.
As he mounted the rear 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 only to collapse on the sidewalk.
Firefighters attempted to get to the wife, who was in her bedroom, only to be forced back when the third floor collapsed into the second-floor kitchen.
The wife's badly charred body was found on her bedroom floor. In another bedroom firefighters found the Thach's elder daughter dead in her bed. The 3-year-old, who was in the same bedroom, was found lying outside her crib. In the front bedroom, their son was found lying on the floor next to his bed.
According to the autopsy report, the victims died from smoke inhalation.
In her report, Police Detective Kimberly Biehn states that no smoke detectors were found 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 stated. The windows of that bedroom were encased in homemade security bars that were bolted shut and could not be opened for escape.
Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.