A fire on August 3 in Noyac killed two people and devastated two families.
A lawyer for the family of the two young women who died this summer in a fire at a rented house in Noyac has written to Suffolk County Attorney Raymond Tierney to ask why his office has not pursued criminal charges in the tragedy , which hit the Wiener on vacation. family on August 3.
The family are “trying to understand how two homicides occurred in your jurisdiction over two months ago, and neither your office nor the appropriate law enforcement authorities have done anything to investigate the matter,” their attorney wrote, Andres Alonso, in an October 13 statement. email to AD
Mr. Tierney, via a spokeswoman, pushed back on that claim on Friday afternoon, after earlier declining to comment on the fire and the possibility of criminal charges being brought against the owners, Pamela and Peter Miller. The Wieners had rented the house from the Millers through the VRBO short-term rental portal.
The attorney’s email begins by recounting the events leading up to the deaths of 19-year-old Lindsay Weiner and 21-year-old Jillian Weiner. The two young women, who were sleeping in their second floor bedroom at 3 Spring Lane in Noyac at the time, were unable to escape the flames and perished in the blaze. Fire investigators have named an outdoor kitchen addition as the likely culprit.
Lewis Wiener, 60, and his wife, Alisa, 52, both escaped the fire, as did their 23-year-old son, Zachary, who suffered burns to his hands; his father had burns on his hands and feet. Ms Wiener was treated for smoke inhalation, according to the lawyer’s letter.
Speaking directly to Mr Tierney, Mr Alonso writes that the Southampton City Solicitor’s Office had advised him throughout the summer that “your office was involved in this matter and was held to the stream of developments”.
“We recently learned that is simply not true.”
After not receiving any updates on the case, Alonso contacted the prosecutor’s office directly and was told, he wrote, that the prosecutor was “not undertaking any investigation into this matter.”
He then contacted the Suffolk County Police Department Homicide Unit, who “further confirmed that there was currently no police involvement in this case…”.
Beyond a summary investigation by the arson squad the day after the fire, the latter states, “there has been no investigation of this matter by your office or the Suffolk County Police Department.” .
The prosecutor’s office rejects this claim. On Oct. 12, in response to an inquiry from The Star requesting available updates on a possible criminal investigation into the Millers, Tania Lopez, a spokeswoman, said via email that “We do not comment on the charges not deposited or plans for depositing charges.”
On October 14, after Mr. Tierney received Mr. Alonso’s letter, The Star again called Mr. Tierney’s office. The following day, Ms Lopez reported that “the prosecutor’s homicide office is investigating this tragic fire. We cannot comment further as this is an ongoing investigation”.
In his letter, Mr Alonso highlights a report by the electrical expert hired by the Southampton City Solicitor to investigate the source of the fire. This report “clearly indicates” that the outdoor kitchen had been illegally added to the property, creating a fire hazard.
“To compound the problem,” Mr. Alonso said, “it appears the Millers have taken steps to disconnect or disable all smoke detectors in the house. In some cases, it appears they have removed the batteries from emergency services and disconnected the power supply to the smoke detectors. Specifically, the detector outside the room where the Wiener sisters slept had been rendered inoperable before the fire.
This report, which was prepared by East End Inspections based in East Quogue following an inspection of the electrical systems of the heavily damaged home on August 18, was included in the email packet sent to Mr. Tierney on October 13. Citing 19 “electrical faults”. “, he concludes that the house was “in non-compliance with the National Electrical Code” and points out in his conclusion that the two smoke detectors outside the two upstairs bedrooms were inoperative.
One of them “was not connected to the electrical system at the time of the fire”, nor had its backup battery system installed, accuses Mr Alonso. “This NYS building code violation left the room without adequate smoke detection.”
The smoke detector in another upstairs bedroom was wired to the electrical system, but was turned off during the fire. While it had a backup battery, “the battery appeared to be old and not working at the time of the fire” according to the report prepared by East End Inspection chief investigator Edward Seltenreich.
Both smoke detectors were older models that “should have been upgraded” to meet New York state regulations for residential smoke detectors, Seltenreich concluded.
After testing the electrical system, the investigator also concluded that its circuitry and distribution “appeared to have been altered from the original installation”, noting numerous electrical “flaws”.
In his letter to Mr Tierney, Mr Alonso cited a similar case in Hempstead, involving a landlord who was arrested last month and charged with criminally negligent homicide after a fatal fire at a rented house killed a tenant upstairs and injured two others. The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office charged the landlord after determining there were no working smoke detectors on the premises.
Edward Burke of Sag Harbor, the attorney representing the Millers, received a copy of Mr. Alonso’s letter from the Star on the morning of October 14. He acknowledged it – sending an “OK” email – but did not comment further. late this morning, October 15.
Mr. Burke said his clients had been traumatized by the events of August 3. The Millers are due in Southampton City Court on November 18; they face dozens of city code violations filed as a result of the fire.
The Wiener family lives in Maryland, and Mr. Alonso’s email appears to warn Mr. Tierney that other senior officials have been briefed on the matter. The email was sent to Senator Christopher von Hollen’s office in Maryland and sent to that state’s Rep. Jamie Raskin through his personal email account.
The email was also sent to Suffolk County Manager Steve Bellone and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, as well as The Star.
Mr. Alonso, Principal of Alonso-Krangle of Melville, Personal Injury Lawyers, concluded it by saying that he would welcome the opportunity for his clients to meet with Mr. Tierney, “to discuss your views about this question”.