HUNTINGTON - Two families of victims of the worst fire in recent Huntington history have filed a lawsuit against the building owners and property manager.

Stacie D. Yancey filed on behalf of her mother, Beatrice Devore Yancey, and Donald D. Lucas filed on behalf of his children, Benjamin, Quentin and Angel Lucas. The deceased perished in a fire in the Emmons Jr. apartment building on Jan. 13.

The suit, filed Feb. 6 in Cabell Circuit Court, named Woodlark Properties, Woodlark Enterprises and property manager Alex Vence, Jr. as defendants.

The fire that killed nine people, destroyed 64 units in the five-story building, and 32 units in the neighboring Emmons Sr. building were heavily damaged due to water and smoke.

Benjamin Lucas, 19, was a tenant of Emmons Jr., on Jan. 13, 2007, when his siblings, Angel, 17, and Quentin, 14, were visiting. Beatrice Devore Yancey, 45, was also a tenant of Emmons Jr.

The fire started and the fire "and copious amounts of smoke and toxic gases spread over and through the apartment building at an extremely rapid rate of speed," the suit says. Firefighters saved 24 people from the burning building.

The lawsuit states Woodlark and Vence had duties to provide a safe building, which included automatic sprinkling systems capable of slowing the spread of smoke and fire, as well as complying with existing building regulations of the State of West Virginia.

The suit states Beatrice Yancey has three surviving children, as well as a sister, and her mother, all of which experienced loss of companionship. Stacie Yancey seeks compensation, punitive damages and funeral expenses.

Donald Lucas and his wife also seek compensation, punitive damages and funeral expenses for their children.

The case has been assigned to Judge David Pancake.

Cabell Circuit Court case number 07-C-105

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