The family of a N.C. State University student killed in a duplex fire last year has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of the rental company, the property manager and the fraternity.
Ivey and Pam Pilkington, the parents of Dylan Cody "Blue" Pilkington, the Grifton native killed in the fire along with his fraternity brother, Brandon Davis, allege installing smoke detectors may have prevented loss of life at the Raleigh duplex.
The Pilkingtons' filed the suit at the Pitt County Courthouse on March 31, The suit states the absence of smoke detectors on ceilings or walls in central hallways and on all three floors of the duplex violated city of Raleigh housing codes.
The lawsuit states the rental company installed smoke detectors in the right unit of the duplex at the request of the residents.
The suit says that property manager Marshall Stewart III purchased four smoke detectors for the left unit, where Pilkington lived, but never installed them. The lawsuit states the detectors were stored in an upstairs closet rarely used by the residents.
The two units were located at 126 and 128 Groveland Ave. in Raleigh.
The two smoke detectors working in the left unit, at 128 Groveland Ave., were purchased by two of the four occupants. One was placed on a basement nightstand and the other on a second-floor bedroom ceiling.
Pam Pilkington said Thursday the family brought the lawsuit in the hopes it will hold the three parties responsible and make owners of student housing aware of building codes.
"Nothing is going to bring him back, but we couldn't let his death be for nothing," Pam Pilkington said. "No other child should be put at risk."
Stewart; 126 Groveland Avenue LLC, the rental company; and Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity are the defendants. None have filed a response to the lawsuit to date.
A representative from the fraternity's main office in Indiana and a local Raleigh officer refused comment Thursday.
Attempts to contact the other defendants were unsuccessful.
Stewart and 126 Groveland Avenue LLC are the main focus of the suit, but the fraternity was listed because it failed to heed advice about the life saving importance of smoke detectors in residences, Robert E. Whitley, attorney for the Pilkington family, said on Wednesday.
The Groveland duplex was considered a Sigma Alpha Mu chapter house at N.C. State University, according to the suit.
Despite being provided with inspection reports to assist in checking emergency equipment and safety measures, "... officers of the Sigma Omega Chapter (of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity), failed to inspect 128 Groveland Ave. for the presence of adequate smoke detectors ... and knew or should have known that smoke detectors were not present in proper locations in 128 Groveland Avenue," the lawsuit states.
The housing code requires the property owner to maintain and inspect things such as smoke detectors, the lawsuit said.
"Our concern is there is nothing to protect college students," Pam Pilkington said. "There has got to be something in place saying the rules have to be enforced."
Cody Pilkington graduated from Ayden-Grifton High School and was a sophomore studying mechanical engineering.
He moved into the duplex in August 2005 – occupying the building with seven other members of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
A cigarette left burning following a party in the left unit's living room basement was thought to be the cause of the fire that engulfed the residence about 6:30 a.m. Oct. 7.
The smoke detectors in the right unit woke four residents and two guests who escaped and the resident staying in the left unit's basement bedroom. Another resident jumped from his bedroom window after the smoke alarm he installed alerted him.
Pilkington and Davis were both trapped on the second-floor and succumbed to smoke inhalation.
While Davis had been drinking with the others, Pilkington had not consumed any alcohol. His family said he never touched a drop, living by what he called the straight-edge philosophy.
Since the fire, the Pilkington family created the Cody "Blue" Pilkington Scholarship in honor of their son. As of Thursday, the family had raised nearly $14,000 to assist students with academic goals similar to Pilkington's.
Keepsakes made from Pilkington's belongings, fundraisers and donations are being used to help fund the scholarship.
In a continuing effort to bring attention to the tragedy surrounding Pilkington's death, the family has requested the essay accompanying the application this year deal with fire safety.
Erin Rickert can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and 329-9566.