Ex-owner of Vegas apartment where 6 died in fire pleads not guilty
By Ken Ritter ASSOCIATED PRESS,2023-06-08
A former apartment building owner pleaded not guilty Thursday to 27 felony involuntary manslaughter and negligence charges stemming from a fire that killed six people and injured 13 in December 2019 and became the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history.
Adolfo Orozco-Garcia stood with attorney Dominic Gentile, who represented Orozco-Garcia and a corporate ownership entity, Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC, in a confidential settlement in March of more than a dozen civil damages lawsuits that arose from the smoky pre-dawn fire at the low-budget Alpine Apartments.
Orozco-Garcia spoke in court only to enter his plea. He and Gentile declined outside court to comment.
Gentile told Clark County District Court Judge Tierra Jones he will continue to represent Orozco-Garcia, 46, in the criminal case, which is likely to be scheduled next year and could result in decades in prison if Orozco-Garcia is convicted. Gentile previously said his client was indigent following the civil settlement and would seek a court-appointed public defender.
Jones scheduled a trial-setting hearing June 20 before Judge Jacqueline Bluth. Orozco-Garcia remains free on bond.
Some of the 50 people who lived in the converted 41-unit former downtown motel died of smoke inhalation, and others, including a pregnant woman, were injured jumping from second-floor windows.
Inspectors later found an exit door bolted shut, a faulty fire sprinkler system and missing or defective smoke detectors.
The fire was traced to an unattended stove in a first-floor apartment that may have been used for warmth on a cold winter night. Residents later complained the building lacked heat, and city officials tallied 42 fire code violations.
The fire spurred city officials to launch an inspection program focusing on aging multi-unit and extended-stay buildings converted from motels or hotels to apartments. The Alpine property has since been rebuilt, rebranded and reopened under new ownership.
The fire was the deadliest in the Las Vegas area since November 1980, when 87 people died and more than 700 were injured in a spectacular blaze at the MGM Grand Hotel on the Strip, which is in Clark County jurisdiction. That hotel became Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and was rebranded in December by owner Caesars Entertainment as the Horseshoe Las Vegas.
A fire three months later, in February 1981, killed eight people at the Hilton Hotel east of Las Vegas Boulevard. That hotel is now the Westgate.