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Lawsuit: Mobile Home Park’s Lack of Fire Hydrants Caused Toddler’s Death During Fire

— August 4, 2021

The owners of Pine Village mobile home park were recently hit with a lawsuit after a fire claimed the life of a two-year-old child.

Pine Village mobile home park in New Chicago is coming under fire in a lawsuit filed by Stephanie Schuitema, the mother of Melania Gwinn. Gwinn was a two-year-old child when she died in a mobile home fire on August 20, 2020. By the time firefighters battled back the flames, the toddler had to be identified via DNA testing. In the suit, Schuitema argues a “lack of water supply and fire hydrants contributed to her daughter’s death.” 

Fire hydrant
Fire hydrant; image courtesy of Free-Photos via Pixabay,

The lawsuit was filed last week in Lake Superior Court. When commenting on the suit, attorneys representing the plaintiff said, “when firefighters arrived that afternoon, they were unable to provide necessary assistance due to (the property owner’s) failure to provide an adequate supply of water.”

When firefighters did manage to make it into the home, they found the child in the living room and Schuitema “was found unconscious in a back bedroom and flown to University of Chicago Medical Center for treatment,” New Chicago Fire Chief Joe Eakins stated shortly after the incident.

The fire that took Gwinn’s life ended up destroying three mobile homes, and “residents banded together to save a 4-year-old boy from the burning mobile home where Schuitema was inside with her daughter.” While they also tried to get inside to save Gwinn and her mother, the intense flames kept them back. In addition to the attempted rescue, the residents “alerted occupants of nearby homes to evacuate.” Soon after the incident, a handful of people “organized to hold donation drives for the victims who lost their homes and belongings.”

Attorneys Dan Calhoun, Ben Murphy, and Chris Cooper are representing Schuitema. As a result of the fire, she is still recovering from her injuries, some of which are “permanent, causing incurred medical expenses, physical pain, mental pain, disfigurement and an inability to engage in normal activities.” The suit states:

“Further, Schuitema suffered emotional distress from the loss of her 2-year-old minor child, Melania Gwinn.” 

The property owner of Pine Village is referred to as M.R.R. 2036 South Michigan LLC in the suit. Attorneys for the plaintiff stated that “M.R.R. 2036 South Michigan LLC had contracted with the Town of New Chicago to provide water to the residents of the mobile home park, which included water supply for fire protection.” However, “due to lack of fire hydrants near the burning mobile home, firefighters were forced to access a fire hydrant outside of Pine Village.” The suit further alleges that this “caused a delay in firefighters’ ability to extinguish the fire and it took longer to make contact with the mother and her young daughter.”

At the moment, Schuitema is seeking compensation and damages for her injuries, legal fees, and would like a jury trial.


Lack of fire hydrants caused child’s death in mobile home fire, lawsuit alleges

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