Family who jumped from third floor balcony during 2018 Windsor Green fire files lawsuit

Grand Strand

A family who jumped from a third floor balcony during 2018’s Windsor Green fire in the Carolina Forest area has filed a lawsuit. 

Brian Alewine and his family, who were injured in the fire, are suing Windsor Green owners, property management companies, and others, over the lack of fire equipment and claim their negligence contributed to the spread of the fire. 

The family is suing for damages from injuries and property loss and well as punitive damages. 

The fire happened on April 12, 2018 and the family lived on the third floor, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday. The lawsuit claims no smoke alarms sounded and the building didn’t have a fire alarm system, sprinkler system, or secondary exit.

The lawsuit also claims there was no access to a fire extinguisher and that by the time the family discovered the fire, the only way out was blocked by flames and heavy smoke, forcing the family to jump from the third floor balcony. 

Fire investigators determined the fire originated on the second floor exterior breezeway near the light fixture, says the lawsuit. “The breezeway, light fixture, and light bulb were located in a common area and exclusively controlled, inspected, and/or maintained by Defendant Windsor Green and/or Defendant Benchmark and its employees.”

In June, Horry County Fire Rescue crews said the cause of the fire was undetermined

Fire Investigator James Cyganiewicz said there was too much damage to determine what actually caused the blaze.

“From the facts gathered at the scene, my training and experience, witness statements, it is the opinion of this investigator that the origin of this fire was on the 2nd floor exterior breezeway in the area of the unit 201. Due to extensive damage and lack of physical evidence, the exact fire cause is undetermined. This fire has been classified as undetermined,” the Windsor Green fire report reads.

The lawsuit filed by Alewine and his family alleges the fire was caused by a birds nest coming in contact with the light bulb and that the complex knew, or should have known, birds were nesting in the common area light fixtures and failed to remove the fire hazard. The suit claims the lack of fire equipment, such as alarms, exits, extinguishers, and sprinklers, was negligent. 

The family says in the suit they received broken legs, broken arms, broken backs, broken ankles and smoke inhalation.

The lawsuit also references a fire at the complex in 2013, where 30 buildings and over 100 units were destroyed. Twenty-six buildings were reportedly renovated to include alarms, sprinklers, and escape routes, but the lawsuit alleges the family’s building was not renovated to comply with local and state fire codes. 

The full lawsuit can be read here

Seven people were hurt in the fire and 911 calls showed fear of a repeat of the 2013 fire. “Windsor Green is on fire. It’s not my unit, but I’m driving by and it looks like one of the units is one fire,” said the initial caller who reported the blaze at the condo community. “We do not need another episode like we did before.”

Blake Cannon, a 16-year-old Carolina Forest High School student at the time of the fire, was honored by Horry County Council after the fire for catching Alewine’s three-year-old from the third floor balcony. Firefighter Davis Trussell was also honored for saving a woman and her dog from their burning apartment. 

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