VENTURA : Mother Sues Over Girl’s Death in Fire

The mother of a 2-year-old girl who died in a Ventura apartment house fire sued the building’s owner Thursday, contending that it lacked a fire alarm that might have prevented the death.

Lainie Galka, mother of Sarah Galka, filed the suit in Ventura County Superior Court.

She seeks unspecified damages from Hoi Nguyen, owner of the building at 90 S. Laurel St.

According to the suit, Lainie Galka awoke at 5:15 a.m. March 24 to find her second-floor apartment filled with smoke.


The hallway was engulfed in flames and smoke, and the only other exit--a window--was blocked by decorative iron bars, the suit says.

Lainie Galka tried to reach over the window grill to drop her child to safety, the suit says, “but because plaintiff was overcome with smoke and in fear of her own life, plaintiff was unable to rescue her daughter.”

Sarah died of smoke inhalation.

Investigators said the mother, her roommate and a 20-month-old child they were baby-sitting jumped from the burning apartment.


The suit also seeks compensation for injuries that the mother allegedly suffered while escaping the fire.

Investigators said Calvin Mitchell of Ventura used a can of gasoline to start the fire in the hallway because he was angry with the resident of a neighboring apartment.

Mitchell, 44, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The suit accuses Nguyen of failing to maintain a working smoke alarm, erecting the iron bars that hindered escape from the building and failing to provide adequate security in the building.

Nguyen’s attorney, George N. Dyer Jr., declined to comment, saying he had not seen the suit.

The case has been assigned to Judge Richard D. Aldrich.