SF sued over 2014 fatal fire in Sunnydale public housing

Relatives of the mother and son who were killed in a fire in San Francisco public housing last year have sued The City and the Housing Authority.

Esther Ioane, 32, and her son Santana Williams, 3, died April 16, 2014 after a fast-moving fire consumed their two-bedroom unit at 76 Brookdale Ave. in the Sunnydale housing projects.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Chris Dolan, Brian Panish, and Marc Pelta in San Francisco Superior Court in March on behalf of Keith Williams, Santana’s father, and Ioane’s two surviving children. It seeks unspecified damages in excess of $25,000.

The suit cites negligence in maintaining the property due to Sunnydale’s well-known poor physical condition and the Housing Authority’s failure to perform necessary upkeep on the blockhouse-style buildings.

No smoke detectors or fire alarms were heard when the fire broke out. After the fire, the unit’s smoke detectors were discovered stashed away in a kitchen drawer, the batteries removed.

Two weeks before the fire, Ioane had reported to the Housing Authority problems with her smoke detectors, the San Francisco Examiner first reported last year.

A Housing Authority electrician reported being unable to access the unit to perform a repair.

Fire Department investigators ruled the blaze accidental, but could not isolate its cause.

The fire may have began at either an overloaded electrical outlet or a space heater piled with debris and used as an end table, according to investigators.

Three other people – one of whom escaped from an upstairs window, surveillance video showed – were inside the two-story, two-bedroom unit at the time of the fire. They were LeShanna Jackson, Kesha Holmes and Moana Williams, according to court records.

Attorneys for the Housing Authority did not respond to a request for comment.

After a 1997 fire in a Hunters Point public housing unit killed a grandmother and five children, the Housing Authority sold off property in order to pay $3.2 million to settle a lawsuit.

The City is currently in the process of transferring management of its public housing from the Housing Authority to nonprofit housing providers.

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