Hotel owners deny wrongdoing in deadly Greenville fire - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Hotel owners deny wrongdoing in deadly Greenville fire

(Greenville-AP) April 22, 2004 - The owners of a Greenville hotel have denied they did anything wrong in a fire that killed six people and injured 12 others earlier this year.

R.G. Hospitality and Greenville Hotel Partners responded to a lawsuit by two guests, saying any injury sustained by the plaintiffs was caused by the criminal conduct of someone over whom the hotel owners had no control.

Investigators have said arson was the cause of the January 25th fire. No arrests have been made. Four women, one man and the child were all found dead on the on the third floor, apparently overcome by thick smoke. The six deaths are all considered homicides, according to the Greenville County Coroner's Office.

Two injured guests sued in February, and two others have since joined the suit accusing motel management of providing inadequate security. The lawsuits say insufficient security and use of building materials that were not fire resistant contributed to the deaths and injuries. Six lawsuits have been filed.

In April the father of a 16-month-old boy who died in the fire sued, claiming the lack of sprinklers at the hotel made it a deathtrap. Zachary Cromer also claims in the lawsuit that the motel advertised having sprinklers.

There were no sprinklers in the hotel. Because of the age of the hotel, it was not required to have them. The Comfort Inn was built in 1988 and wasn't required to have sprinklers under fire codes in effect then.

Cromer's son, Jaden Damarion Cromer, died in the fire along with his mother, Zachary's 21-year-old girlfriend, Melba Lashawn Canty, of Taylors; 19-year-old Allison Lorraine Barfield, of North Augusta; 19-year-old Jessica Lane Hamby, of Conover, North Carolina; 26-year-old Matthew Greene, of Greenwood; and 36-year-old Donna Lea Swaim, of Conover, North Carolina.

Choice Hotels International is a defendant in similar lawsuits and contends it is not the owner or manager. Four separate lawsuits claim the smoke detectors and a fire alarm didn't work at the hotel.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is conducting a fire reconstruction. The State Law Enforcement Division is also investigating.

updated 7:49am by Chris Rees

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