NEW YORK — Families are suing the owners of an apartment building in the Bronx after 17 people died in a fire.
The five lawsuits named Bronx Park Phase III Preservation, the Bronx Phase III Housing Co., and three investment groups as defendants.
The suits allege that safety violations led to the tragedy.
Fire officials said a malfunctioning space heater started the blaze on January 9.
The fire produced suffocating smoke that rose through a stairwell and killed people as they tried to flee.
Lawyers with the New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg said owners of the building did not follow rules for self-closing doors and windows that can stay open.
Attorneys added that residents of the apartment where the fire started left their front door open.
Spring-loaded hinges were supposed to shut the door automatically, but they did not work.
Fire investigators said that the apartment’s front door and a door on the 15th floor should have been self-closing to help contain the spreading smoke, but that the doors stayed fully open.
It was not clear if the doors failed mechanically or if they had been manually disabled
The lawsuit did not specify details about monetary damages and did not cite specific safety violations.
Another attorney, Larry Goldhirsch, said specifics will be announced in the coming weeks.
A spokesperson for the building’s owners denies they were responsible.