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July 17, 2018

Family sues over deadly fire in resort cabin at Tamarack

TAMARACK, Idaho (AP) — A fireplace inside an Idaho rental resort cabin exploded, causing the death of four people, according to a wrongful death lawsuit.

Erin Smith reserved the Tamarack Resort vacation rental last year, the weekend before the Fourth of July, the Idaho Statesman reported. It was Smith her husband, daughter, a family friend and his son.

One of the fireplaces exploded, killing everyone but Smith's husband, William “Mitch” Smith, the wrongful death lawsuit filed in March says.

“Mr. Smith made heroic efforts to save his family and friends but was ultimately driven from the structure by the intense heat, smoke and flames,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Smith collapsed in the road, knowing that his wife, daughter and friends would not survive.”

The lawsuit — brought by Erin Smith's husband, parents and estate — accuses the current and prior owners of the cabin, a fireplace company and various resort companies of causing the four deaths.

Valley County Coroner Scott Carver identified the dead as Erin Smith, her 7-year-old daughter, Autumn Smith; James “Jim” Harper III and 14-year-old James “JJ” Harper IV.

All but one of the defendants have responded in court filings to the allegations, saying they either deny the claims or don't know enough to say whether they're true. They indirectly or directly blame the explosion on Smith, his family and friends who were killed in the blaze, or other people or circumstances.

The plaintiffs didn't say in the lawsuit how much money they are seeking.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and several defendants declined to comment to the Statesman on behalf of their clients. Robert and Lisa Cowes, who at one point owned the cabin, did not respond to messages.

The Smith family filed the lawsuit in Ada County. The next step in the case is for the judge to rule on a request to move it to Valley County instead. The defendants argue that because none of them are in Ada County, the case should be moved to their location.


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