PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Family members and survivors of a fire that claimed the lives of three firefighters in Delaware have filed a federal lawsuit blaming Wilmington for their deaths.
Captain Christopher Leach and lieutenants Jerry Fickes and Ardythe Hope died from injuries they received in the rowhome fire back in September of 2016. Three others were hurt.
The lawsuit blames a cost-saving policy called “rolling bypasses” for their deaths. The practice takes one firetruck out of commission around the clock.
Wilmington’s Mayor Mike Purzycki released a statement on the suit today:
“While we continue to be very sad about the loss of our firefighters and the way this incident has affected the entire WFD family, this lawsuit is not an appropriate response to this tragedy. There are no reasons at all for the City to feel guilt or shame. A grand jury has charged an individual with arson and multiple counts of murder in connection with this fire, and that person is awaiting trial. Yet, despite the pending criminal prosecution, plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed a civil complaint seeking money damages from the City affecting all the citizens of Wilmington, but leaving unnamed the individual accused of intentionally setting the fire.
The City of Wilmington’s government and its citizens continue to meet any and all obligations to the victims of this tragic act of arson through compensation and benefit programs that are available to City employees. In addition to the amounts of money that the affected firefighters and their families may have received from the State and other sources, the City has paid or anticipates paying over $11 million to the affected firefighters and their families in medical costs and related benefits associated with his incident.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed this lawsuit in an attempt to get even more money from the City. Perhaps they believe, or have convinced their clients, that this lawsuit is a way to gain additional compensation through a quick cash settlement. If so, they are profoundly mistaken. I assure you that Wilmington will aggressively defend this case.
It is easy to file a lawsuit, and a complaint is just a list of allegations written by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Those allegations are not facts, and they are not evidence. As the plaintiffs and their lawyers will learn, facts matter. The actual facts in this case differ sharply from the narrative contained in the complaint.”