The family members of the victims of the Campus Trendz tragedy will return to court on Tuesday October 4, to find out how their case against state agencies and the business owners will proceed.
Speaking at a September 3 Foundation press conference at the Clement Payne Centre on Crumpton Street, The City this morning, attorney-at-law David Comissiong, who is representing three of the five families who filed the lawsuit back in 2013, was confident the plaintiffs had an “iron clad” case and that they would be victorious at the end.
Comissiong said though filed four years ago, the civil case was delayed because of the criminal case against Jamar Dewayne Orlando Bynoe, who in July, was sentenced to hang for the September 3, 2010 deaths of Shanna Griffith, Kelly-Ann Welch, Pearl Cornelius, Kellishaw Olivierre, Nikita Belgrave and Tiffany Harding.
A second man charged with the deaths of the young women, 22-year-old Renaldo Anderson Alleyne, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2011 and was sentenced to spend his life behind bars.
Comissiong said the lawsuit was filed against the perpetrators, the Attorney General as the representative of the Ministry of Labour and Barbados Fire Service, the store owner and the proprietor of the building.
He said the allegations included breaches of duty on the part of critical Government agencies and officers responsible for ensuring that the building was safe for public use.
The lawyer said questions of these breaches were raised in a Request for Information Document filed under the Civil Procedure Rules.
“For example, it [document] poses questions to the Chief Fire Officer. Did the Chief Fire Officer or the Barbados Fire Service and or the Chief Labour Officer or the Labour Department carry out and inspection of the exterior or interior of the building housing the Campus Trendz clothing store on, or prior to September 3, 2010?
“If the answer is in the affirmative, when was such inspection carried out? What are the names of the persons who carried out the inspection? Was a written report made of the findings of the inspection?”
The sixth anniversary of the tragedy will be marked on Saturday, and Comissiong said he was concerned that little or nothing had been done to correct the unsafe conditions in many small stores and shops in Bridgetown.
The social activist said the lack of action by relevant authorities was disheartening, and questioned whether authorities only responded when the court inflicted punishment.
“It seems to be that they are waiting for the determination of this lawsuit before doing the things that they really think they should have been doing as soon as that tragedy occurred. As soon as that tragedy occurred there should have been a proper investigation by the relevant governmental authorities.
“And out of that should have come a serious action plan to deal with this issue of inadequate fire escapes, inadequate fire fighter equipment, inadequate registration being applied to these structures and businesses. This is why the lawsuit is so valid because it would appear that our Government only gets the message when the Supreme Court makes a pronouncement,” he said.
Back on September 3, 2010, as shoppers filled the Campus Trendz store in last-minute, back-to-school shopping, the two men firebombed the business place with Molotov cocktails made of gasoline-filled beer bottles, after robbing the store.
Unable to escape, the women died in the inferno in the shop whose backdoor had been sealed shut.
The Campus Trendz Fire, as it came to be known, horrified Barbadians at the extremity of the violent crime and prompted calls for greater security in the capital.