clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Tenants injured in deadly Northwest Side fire file lawsuit against building owners

Tenants of an apartment building that caught fire in November, killing a 10-year-old boy, have filed a lawsuit against the Northwest Side building owners, alleging they were injured while the boy’s family attempted to escape the blaze.

Saul and Andrea Zetina filed the negligence lawsuit Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Firefighters responded to the blaze about 4 a.m. Nov. 9, which moved throughout the courtyard building in the 5700 block of North Kimball, before being put out about 45 minutes later, Fire Media Affairs said at the time.

The suit claims the building’s owners, Mihai and Elena Horga, failed to properly test and maintain smoke alarms in common stairwells and did not properly maintain or inspect the building to prevent a fire.

Saul Zetina was sleeping in his second-floor apartment when the fire spread to his home, the suit alleges. He roused his family, including his daughter Andrea Zetina, and they were able to make it out of the building safely.

It was while Saul Zetina was outside with his family waiting for firefighters to arrive that a tenant on the third floor of the building, Tahir Khan, dangled two children from a broken window of the building, the suit claims.

Saul Zetina caught one of the children that Khan subsequently dropped, but while he was putting the child down on the grassy area in front of the building, Khan jumped from the window, landing on Saul Zetina, the suit alleges.

The other child that Khan dropped from the window struck Andrea Zetina before being caught by another person standing nearby, the suit claims.

Both Saul and Andrea Zetina were injured as a result of the family being forced to escape through the window, the suit alleges.

Khan and his wife, Maria Tahir, dropped two of their three children a window of their third floor apartment, according to previous Chicago Sun-Times reports. Both of the parents then jumped from the window.

But their third child, 10-year-old Ans Tahir, was trapped in the apartment.

The boy was discovered dead inside the building, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. An autopsy conducted the next day was inconclusive pending further studies.

While Tahir and Khan were hospitalized in the intensive care unit, their two surviving children, ages 7 and 8, went to live with their aunt in Texas, according to the family’s lawyer, Timothy Cavanagh.

The couple also filed a negligence lawsuit against Mihai and Elena Horga in late November. They also claim the building’s smoke detectors were either nonexistent or not working.

The building has been cited for code violations more than 40 times since 2007, according to city data. In February 2012 it was cited twice because smoke detectors were not operating in a stairwell.

In total, 11 people — five of them between the ages of 15 and 17 — were taken to various hospitals after the fire, including Swedish Covenant, Weiss Memorial and Saint Francis in Evanston, fire officials said. The other six hospitalized are all adults.

Fire Media Affairs spokesman Juan Hernandez said at the time that investigators were focusing on the third floor of the building, where the blaze was thought to have originated.

Firefighters at the scene reported they heard fire alarms going off in the building when they arrived, so the alarms are thought to be in working order, Hernandez said.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, authorities said.

The Zetinas’ two-count lawsuit is seeking at least $100,000 in damages.

Mihai and Elena Horga could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit Friday evening.