Robert Resto, 7, Died In Fire In Illegally Converted Manhattan Basement Apartment At 660 West 178 Street
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK (November 1, 2021) – A 7-year-old child identified as Robert Resto has tragically died after a fire broke out inside an illegally converted basement apartment in Washington Heights.
New York City police officials are saying that the accident took place around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 30th. Robert Resto was inside of an illegally converted basement apartment with his grandmother.
Firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene of the blaze in order to help all of the victims. There are reports that the NYFD was short multiple firefighters due to numerous people calling in sick to protest vaccine mandates.
Firefighters were eventually able to extricate Robert Resto, but he could not be saved and was pronounced dead at the scene. The boy’s grandmother was taken to Jacobi hospital and was listed in serious condition.
Officials have deemed the fatal Washington Heights fire an accident. However, a cause of the fire remains ongoing at this time.
Liability In Manhattan Apartment Fires
Deaths in home fires have continuously fallen from the 1980s. This has taken place due in large part to stricter regulations and buildings being constructed with fire-resistant materials. According to Injury Facts, “In 2019, 1,291,500 fires resulted in 3,704 civilian deaths and 16,600 injuries. In addition, there were 48 on-duty firefighter deaths – representing the first year that the annual death toll fell below 50.” There were 65,056 fires in New York state in 2018. There are many different factors that could contribute to a home fire.
- Cooking Accidents: Cooking accidents remain the single greatest cause of home fires. Cooking oil can easily catch fire when heated past 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heating Accidents: Portable heaters are the second leading cause of home fires. Fires are more likely when these heaters are placed in or near blankets.
- Electrical Fires: Home fires are often started by malfunctioning electrical outlets.
- Candles: Nearly one third of all home fires are caused by candles lit in the bedroom.
All property owners in New York have a legal obligation to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. When a property owner has actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition with a property they must take measures to correct that dangerous condition. They must take reasonable precautions to prevent fires which includes adhering to all local fire codes. When a property owner fails to maintain their premises in a safe condition they can be held liable in the event of an accident.
All property owners must abide by Department of Building (DOB) regulations. They must not create or lease illegal conversions. Per DOD regulations, illegal conversions will include “Making illegal apartments by altering a basement, cellar, or attic.” One of the things that make illegal conversions so dangerous is that they virtually never get inspected. This can easily lead to a large accumulation of code violations that could lead to a fire. Examples of New York City fire code violations could include:
- Areas with unprotected open fires – such as rooftop firepits.
- Faulty wiring.
- Faulty gas connections.
- Missing or malfunctioning fire alarms.
- Missing or malfunctioning sprinklers.
- Blocked exits or escape routes.
- A lack of emergency fire escapes.
- Missing or malfunctioning fire extinguishers.
The family of any victim that died in an apartment fire may be able to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. Damages can help cover lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. Unfortunately, property owners will often fight hard to deny responsibility for any accidents or injuries that take place on their property. A New York City premises liability attorney can examine all of the unique facts of your case free of cost and let you know what your legal options are.
Investigating A Manhattan Apartment Fire
We at Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. extend our deepest condolences to the family of Robert Resto. It is our sincere hope that his grandmother is able to make a full recovery. This tragedy comes just a few months after over a dozen people died in illegal basement apartments following the flooding from Hurricane Ida. It is our sincere hope that measures will be put in place to help prevent additional tragedies like this.
This accident raises a number of safety concerns. Did the Department of Buildings ever know about this unit? Have their been other incidents in this building? Could this tragedy have been prevented? The vast majority of residential fire deaths are totally preventable. There needs to be a thorough investigation into what happened for the sake of all who have lost so much.