Chinatown Building Collapse Injures 12

07/16/2013 // New York, NY, USA // jcreiterlaw // Jonathan C. Reiter // (press release)

A fiery blast occurred at a Chinatown building, which caused a partial building collapse, injuring at least 12 people. At least 3 of the victims were listed in critical condition, and 4 were listed in serious condition, at Bellevue Hospital. This incident occurred on July 11, 2013, at approximately 12:00 p.m., reported New York injury attorney Jonathan C. Reiter.

The building housed a beauty salon and bus company office, in addition to 18 apartments. A resident of the building, identified as Wang Xiao, stated that she placed 24 canisters, known as ‘bug bombs’, on Wednesday, and added another 24 canisters on Thursday shortly before the explosion occurred.

Preliminary investigation by the New York Fire Department showed that a nearby pilot light ignited the blast. The fire started on the first floor and quickly spread to the second and third floor. The back wall of the first floor collapsed completely, along with a first floor mezzanine. Assistant Fire Chief, Robert Boyce, stated that the building had existing fire code violations, adding that a required fire-stopping material was not used in the building. Chief Boyce stated that the 17 Pike Street location was the site of several previous code violations. The last time the building was cited was in 2009, when it was found to be unsafe and shaking, and in danger of collapse. It appears from public records that the 2009 violations were resolved. The owners of the building, identified as Thomas Shui and his wife, of New Jersey, stated, “everything was under control. We handled everything.”

According to Jonathan C. Reiter, New York injury attorney, whose office is located in the Empire State Building, who has handled many accidents involving blasts, explosions and building collapses, including both the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center disasters, the liability for this type of accident appears to be on several parties. Mr. Reiter explained, as follows: “It appears that this building, on its face, was negligently repaired and maintained, and that this was a major factor in the collapse of the building, leading to so many severe injuries. The codes of New York City require certain fire-stopping materials to be used in repairing older buildings, which this building clearly did not have, since the fire spread to the upper floors so quickly.

The owners’ failure to maintain the building in a safe manner, and to permit ongoing multiple code violations, which were not resolved, comprise a clear basis for a premises liability action. In addition, there is the person who admittedly placed the canisters, and negligently placed them close to a pilot light. A thorough investigation is required in an incident such as this, to flush out all the negligent parties.”

Mr. Reiter then explained the basis for possible liability against the City of New York, as follows: “It is mandated by statute that the appropriate city agency, in this case, the FDNY, not only inspect multiple family dwellings within the city limits, but to violate them when a building is not up to code, and to re-inspect the buildings for compliance. This is an issue of public safety. In this incident, there were existing violations on this building. In that case, heavy fines should have been levied on the building’s owners. It is also possible that the FDNY had the duty to condemn this particular building, for the safety of its residents, as well as surrounding residents. The FDNY’s failure to follow the mandate of the law in this incident is a possible basis of liability against the City. Therefore, there are multiple parties that may be liable for this incident, including the building’s owners, the resident who placed the canisters, and the City of New York.” It is clear, then, that a full investigation is vital in determining all of the liable parties in this tragic incident.

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