Decatur mother files lawsuit claiming landlord negligence in tragic apartment fire

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ATHENS, Ala. – It's been nearly two years since a tragic apartment fire in Decatur claimed the lives of two young children. Friday the Crayton family filed a lawsuit in the case.

Family attorney, Gary Conchin, says this fire was avoidable and the lives lost were a result of negligence.

It was a devastating situation; the Craytons were fast asleep on March 27, 2014. The parents were awakened not by a fire alarm, but rather thick smoke and screams from their young children.

The family is hoping this lawsuit will allow justice to prevail through tragedy.

"They couldn't get through,” Conchin explained what happened that fateful night. “They couldn't get to them and they heard the screaming of the little girl, 'mommy, mommy.'"

The fire occurred at West Ridge Apartments. Investigators believe the fire started in the children's bedroom.

"The kids didn't have a chance," said Conchin. The two youngest children, 4-year-old Mar’lena and 2-year-old Dexter Miland, perished in the flames.

Friday, mother Tenetha Crayton and two other apartment residents filed a lawsuit against the apartment company, Triad Funding Corporation, and owner, Patrick E. Crowe.

"We alleged negligence and wantonness, which is a higher degree of negligence," said Conchin.

The smoke detectors in the complex failed to detect smoke or fire in the Crayton's unit or those nearby.

"I don't believe they were ever tested appropriately, they certainly were not maintained. There was no real attempt made to comply with codes as it deals with the safety of tenants," explained Conchin.

This lawsuit is one of justice for a family who can never fully heal from the fire. The lawsuit is also one that looks to ignite a change in the way landlords care for their tenants and properties.

"She wanted to not just bury her children and go on,” said Conchin. “She wanted to see that something good, if possible, can come out of this, some curative action."

The fire investigation is still open years later and the cause of the fire is still unknown.

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