Family of Sisters Who Died in Noyac Fire Sue Owners and VRBO - 27 East

Family of Sisters Who Died in Noyac Fire Sue Owners and VRBO

icon 1 Photo
The rear of the Noyac home where two sisters died in an August fire. The girls' family has filed a lawsuit against the home's owners and the online rental company VRBO and HomeAway.com.

The rear of the Noyac home where two sisters died in an August fire. The girls' family has filed a lawsuit against the home's owners and the online rental company VRBO and HomeAway.com.

authorMichael Wright on Nov 29, 2022

The family of the two sisters who died in a fire at a rented Noyac home in August have filed a civil lawsuit that excoriates the property owners and the online rental agencies HomeAway and VRBO for what the suit characterizes as “greed, corner-cutting and willful failure to give any thought to the safety of the occupants of the premises.”

Jillian and Lindsay Wiener, from Maryland, ages 19 and 21, died in a second-floor bedroom of a house on Spring Lane on August 3 after a fire broke out in an outdoor kitchen on the home’s deck. An investigation into the fire revealed that the house had no working smoke detectors, and that electrical wiring installed for the outdoor kitchen did not meet safety codes and posed a serious fire hazard.

The women’s parents had rented the home from its owners, Pamela and Peter Miller, on HomeAway.com, which also operates the VRBO — Vacation Rental by Owner — booking service.

In the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court, the family says that the Wiener family is “broken” by the deaths of the sisters and sought an unspecified amount in punitive damages.

Parents Alisa and Lewis Wiener, the lawsuit says, “suffered a loss that no parent could or should have to endure. Their brother, Zachary, is haunted by their loss and the notion that the girls could not be saved. Unbearable pain and loss all owing to the defendants’ desire to earn a buck from the rental of a home to unwitting vacationers.”

One of the Wieners’ attorneys, Andres Alonso, has himself labeled the fire a “homicide” and has called on the Suffolk County district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges against the Millers, who have been charged with 29 violations of fire and safety codes related to the safety failures at the home, but none has yet materialized.

The suit accuses the Millers of having made improvements to the home without following building and safety codes and without having secured the required permits. It accuses HomeAway and VRBO of having represented to the Wieners that the house met specific basic safety requirements, and of failing to follow up to ensure that the house was safe.

“Homeaway and VRBO made written representations to plaintiffs that the home contained several safety features, including smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms,” the legal complaint says.

The lawsuit includes a copy of a form email from the company welcoming the family to the rental that includes a section of “Safety Information” that lists smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors outside each bedroom door and inside each bedroom.

Investigators determined that the house, in fact, had just three smoke detectors installed — rather than the minimum of five it should have had — and none of them had working power connections or charged backup batteries. There was no smoke detector in the hallway outside the bedroom where the women were sleeping that could have provided an early warning to the spreading fire below.

“The representations were particularly dangerous in that, in some instances, there were what appeared to be smoke or carbon monoxide alarms present at the aforesaid locations, lulling the plaintiffs into a false sense of security,” the family says in the suit. “In fact, these ‘alarms’ were nothing more than the worthless carcasses of nonfunctioning alarms …

“In short, rather than make the necessary investments to make the premises habitable, the Miller defendants decided to cut corners and take shortcuts,” the suit alleges. “Shortcuts that put a price on the safety and well-being of the Wiener family — the $8,000 they received for the week rental.”

The Millers have not appeared in court on the two occasions their code violation charges have been in Southampton Town Justice Court. The only statement they or their attorney have offered about the tragedy was an emotional statement from Pamela Miller the week of the tragedy in which she spoke of heartbreak that “the very beds I tucked my own beloveds into, the very ones I laid down beside them to comfort them to sleep, became deathtraps for another mother’s precious heartbeats.”

You May Also Like:

Volunteer Firefighters Drawn To Answer the Call

Acrid brown smoke billows and swirls in the air on a late spring morning as ... 27 May 2024 by Tom Gogola

Crash on County Road 39 Snarls Rush Hour Traffic East of Southampton

An overturned delivery truck closed the westbound lanes of County Road 39 in Southampton, snarling ... 29 Apr 2024 by Staff Writer

Earthquake Felt on East End on Friday

An earthquake mildly shook the East End on Friday morning. The 4.8 magnitude earthquake at ... 5 Apr 2024 by Staff Writer

East Hampton Plans Campaign To Bring Cellular Companies, Land Owners Together To Close Coverage Gaps

East Hampton Town plans to mount an “open for business” outreach campaign to cellular phone ... 3 Apr 2024 by Michael Wright

Scattered Road Closures in Southampton Town Following Storm

Dune Road in Hampton Bays remained closed shortly after noon on Saturday, January 13, following ... 13 Jan 2024 by Staff Writer

Owner of Sag Harbor Wakeboarding School Killed in Noyac Accident

The owner of a popular Sag Harbor-based wakeboarding school was killed over the weekend when ... 6 Jan 2024 by MICHAEL WRIGHT 
AND STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Sag Harbor Cinema Evacuated Monday Night

Sag Harbor Cinema was evacuated at about 7:30 p.m. on Monday, October 16, due to ... 16 Oct 2023 by Staff Writer

Sag Harbor Firefighters Honored for Bravery Fighting Fire That Killed Two Young Women

Three Sag Harbor firefighters were honored on September 27 with bronze medals of valor presented ... 3 Oct 2023 by Stephen J. Kotz

27Speaks: To the Rescue: Eagle-Eyed Birdwatcher Helps Save Entangled Osprey

On August 10, Water Mill resident Judith Sherman looked through her binoculars at a bird in a distant tree. The bird, an osprey, was in distress and hanging from a branch, its leg tangled in a mass of rope and fishing line. So Sherman called the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, and before long, wildlife rescue volunteer Missy Hargraves was on the case and ready to help. In this week’s podcast, the editors and reporter Tom Gogola talk with Hargraves about the harrowing scene, the effort it took to free the osprey, and the good work of ... 25 Aug 2023 by 27Speaks

Former Express Photographer Michael Heller Aids in Firefighting Effort on Greek Island of Rhodes

Fifty- or 60-foot walls of flame spreading out over rugged, mountainous terrain was not something ... 26 Jul 2023 by Cailin Riley