Ginger Jiang sues after being forced to jump from burning Bankstown apartment
The Sydney Morning Herald
17 December 2017
A young woman who was forced to jump from a burning building in
Sydney's west is suing her landlord and body corporate in the Supreme
Court, alleging her apartment had an increased risk of fire because it
did not have sprinklers installed and was modified without council
Yinou "Ginger" Jiang and her friend Pingkang "Connie" Zhang were inside
a fifth-floor apartment at the West Terrace development in Bankstown on
September 6, 2012, when a fire started on the balcony and quickly
Jiang and Pingkang "Connie" Zhang cling to the side of their apartment
building before being forced to jump. Photo: ABC News 24
The pair became trapped in a bedroom and climbed onto the narrow window
ledge outside, but the fire's heat was so unbearable they were forced
Ms Zhang – a promising pharmacy and nursing student – died, while Ms
Jiang survived with "severe injuries" to her legs that require her to
use a wheelchair.
Ms Jiang and her parents are now seeking damages, interest and costs in
the Supreme Court, as are Ms Zhang's parents and the student's
boyfriend Shengkai Li.
According to court documents, Ms Zhang phoned her boyfriend multiple
times as the blaze consumed the apartment, but the calls were
interrupted by poor reception. When Mr Li rushed home, he discovered
she had died.
The families are suing the apartment's landlord, James Peng; the
Property Investor Alliance, which allegedly told Mr Peng he could build
another bedroom in the unit; and the company responsible for installing
extinguishers in the building.
They are also suing the body corporate, the realty group that managed
the building, the certifier who issued an occupancy certificate for the
building and Silky Constructions, who built the apartments.
Yinou "Ginger" Jiang at Glebe Coroner's Court in 2015. Photo: Peter Rae
They allege fire risks at the apartment were "forseeable" and "not
insignificant", and all defendants were under a duty to take
precautions against the risk of harm.
In documents lodged with the Supreme Court, Ms Jiang and the other
plaintiffs allege an extra room was added inside the apartment without
appropriate or qualified advice, so it could be rented out to more
people to make more money.
This added "additional fuel", made the unit "more of a fire risk", and allegedly made it harder to escape.
It is further alleged the builders modified the building's plans
without council approval, to "shav[e] centimetres off the building's
height" so it would be just shy of 25 metres tall, the threshold at
which a sprinkler system must be installed.
It is alleged the defendants breached their duty of care by failing to
install fire sprinklers, failing to ensure fire doors were working, and
issuing the occupancy certificate for the building when it did not have
In court documents, Ms Jiang, Mr Li and the parents of both women say they suffered damage as a result of the fire.
Ms Jiang's parents suffered "injury, loss and damage" upon hearing of
her injuries, while Ms Zhang's parents suffered "injury" and distress
when they were told of their daughter's death.
In a statement of claim, Ms Zhang's mother says she suffers depression,
anxiety, PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks as a result of what her
daughter went through.
Ms Zhang attended the University of Sydney on a scholarship and would
have completed her combined degree by the end of 2017 if she had not
died, her parents said. She would then have been able to support them.
The claims are being defended on several counts, with the defendants
denying some of the allegations against them, denying they had a duty
of care, and saying the action should be "statute barred" because it
has been brought more than three years after the fire.
The body corporate is also suing the apartment's builders and
developers, seeking costs to rectify "defects" in the apartment block.
The matter will return to court next year.
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