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Fate of fire victim still uncertain, lawsuit filed

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Zach Sutterfield
Zach Sutterfield
Photo courtesy of Julie Schniers

Texas State student Zachary Sutterfield is fighting for his life after suffering severe injuries from the July 20 Iconic Village apartment fire that left five residents dead.

After being pulled out of the fire with the help of fellow residents of the building, Sutterfield was found to have suffered third-degree burns to 70 percent of his body. He was not expected to survive the first 72 hours following the fire, according to a press release by Sutterfield’s parents, DJ and Karl Sutterfield.

Sutterfield has undergone 14 surgeries so far, including skin grafts, optometric surgeries, neurosurgeries and plastic surgeries on his face. Sutterfield is under heavy sedation in the ICU burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, in Fort Sam, Houston. The press release stated nearing two months since the fire, doctors estimate a 50 percent chance of survival.

“It’s a roller coaster,” Karl Sutterfield stated in the press release. “We know we aren’t out of danger, but we hold on to his improvements. Every day he is with us is a good day.”

Karl and DJ Sutterfield have since filed a lawsuit against owners San Marcos Green Investors, LLC, Elevate Multifamily, LLC, and apartment complex manager Deborah Jones for allegedly gross acts of negligence in failing to provide a safe environment for tenants.

The lawsuit states the fire and smoke alarms, last inspected in 2014 in compliance with Texas Property Code 92.255, failed to activate and alert residents of the fire in the apartment complex. It also alleges the complex did not have a functioning fire sprinkler or suppression system. Karl and DJ Sutterfield are asking to recover damages for Zachary totaling more than $1 million.

“I don’t want another parent or loved one to see what I saw on day one,” DJ Sutterfield stated in a press release. “We need to educate and change laws. We don’t want this to happen again. The last 40 days have changed our lives and if it can happen to our family, it can happen to anyone. I sent my son to college never expecting to be wishing laws were different.”

The lawsuit could take up to two years for completion, said Bruce Steckler, lawyer at Steckler Gresham Cochran PLLC, serving as representation for the Sutterfields.

The University Star will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

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