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ONLY ON ABC7NEWS.COM: Family of loved one who passed after Oakmont Senior Living fire speaks out

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Since the fire that destroyed an assisted living facility in Santa Rosa, three residents have passed away. This prompted the attorney who filed a class action lawsuit to amend her complaint to a wrongful death lawsuit. Last month, a judge agreed to an expedited trial date since the plaintiffs in the case are elderly. One of the families is speaking only to ABC7 News. (KGO-TV)

Since the fire that destroyed an assisted living facility in Santa Rosa, three residents have passed away. This prompted the attorney who filed a class action lawsuit to amend her complaint to a wrongful death lawsuit. Last month, a judge agreed to an expedited trial date since the plaintiffs in the case are elderly. One of the families is speaking only to ABC7 News.

Oakmont Senior Living (OSL) is billed as a "luxury retirement community."

"It was a beautiful version of hell," said Sherry Minson, whose mother was a Villa Capri resident.

FULL COVERAGE: The evacuation of Oakmont Senior Living in Santa Rosa

On Oct. 9 during the Tubbs Fire, OSL's Villa Capri residence burned to the ground.

Sherry Minson says her 92-year-old mom Bess Budow barely made it out alive.

"I'm feeling awful," said Budow from her hospital bed on Oct. 23, 2017.

"That's all we have is each other," she continued.

Minson added, "She never had a good day after that. She was in so much pain, I mean just in agony."

EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit against Oakmont Management Group amended to include 'wrongful death'

Budow passed away two months later.

Two other residents also passed away after the fire, both, related to the two women who rescued nearly all of Villa Capri's residents.

"All I could think about was getting all of those people to safety," said Kathy Allen on Oct.16, 2017.

Allen's mother-in-law passed away last month. She says the three employees who were at Villa Capri when she arrived didn't know what to do.

VIDEO: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community resident describes terrifying 'inferno' and confusing evacuation
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Katheryn Mann says she was told to stay in her room as flames approached the Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community.



"We asked them specifically, 'Do you have an evacuation plan?' Because we wanted to help out and they said no, they were waiting for their director," said Allen on Oct. 16, 2017.

After the fire, Oakmont Senior Living emailed ABC7 News, "All of our communities have evacuation plans."

"I wasn't taught it if they do," said maintenance worker Andre Blakely on Oct. 16, 2017.

Attorney Kathryn Stebner says all she's seen is a one page document where everyone should meet and names of point people, some whom she says no longer work for OSL. Stebner filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs including the Minson and Allen families.

Oakmont Senior Living has said law enforcement prevented them from re-entering the area to shuttle more residents to safety, but Santa Rosa police say there were no roadblocks.

"We were not stopping anybody from helping save lives that night," said Captain Rainer Navarro with the Santa Rosa Police Department on Oct. 12, 2017.
RELATED: Family questions Oakmont Senior Living's statement that all 430 residents are 'settling into new living arrangements'

Stebner says one of the biggest blows has been Oakmont Senior Living's response to her lawsuit. It says, "Plaintiffs failed to take precautions that would have avoided and diminished her injuries" and "...didn't act in a reasonable manner or as a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances."

Stebner says Oakmont Senior Living is blaming victims like Budow.

"Who can't see, can't hear, who's afraid, who has cognitive dysfunctions, sitting there, who hasn't been out of bed in two years, to blame her is upsetting," said Stebner.

Last month, a judge granted Stebner's request for an expedited trial. It's been set for August, just 10 months after the fire.

"They blew it so massively and the jig is up. People know now that this is not the place it was pretending to be," said Minson.

ABC7 News reached out to Oakmont Senior Living's attorney for a response and did not hear back.

Click here for full coverage on the evacuation of Santa Rosa's Oakmont Senior Living during the North Bay Fires.

Click here for full coverage of the North Bay fires.
Related Topics:
firefighterscal firefirewildfireNorth Bay Firessonoma countynapa countysenior citizenslawsuitelder abuserescuefire rescueNapaSanta Rosa
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