SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A father and son accused of causing a deadly fire at a senior living center in Rockland County pleaded not guilty Thursday to homicide and manslaughter charges.
Nathaniel and Aaron Sommer, who are each rabbis, are accused of causing the deadly March 23 fire that destroyed Evergreen Court while using propane blowtorches in a ritual cleansing of the kitchen before Passover, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.READ MORE: Gov. Hochul: No Known Cases Of New COVID Variant 'Omicron' In New York
The prosecution said the Sommers violated many safety rules, to the point of being negligent and criminal.
“The Sommer family grieves at the loss of life that occurred in this incident, but they did not commit a crime, and that will become evident as this case proceeds,” said defense attorney Jacob Laufer.
Firefighter Jared Lloyd, a father of two, and 79-year-old resident Oliver Hueston died in the inferno.
Lloyd’s father and aunt attended Thursday’s hearing.READ MORE: Stephen Sondheim, Legend Of The Broadway Musical, Dead At 91
“We just want a fair trial, and we want justice for my son,” said Lloyd’s father.
“Justice will be served. Trust me,” said Selma Askin.
Many local firefighters were also in court to support the family and express confidence in the case put together by the office of District Attorney Thomas Walsh and other investigators.
“Even ATF, they all have a significant investment in this case and all have gone above and beyond to bring this case where it’s at today,” said Rockland Emergency Services Director Chris Kear.
Nathaniel and Aaron Sommer are free on bail. They’re charged not only with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, but requesting the home’s alarm be disconnected from central dispatch while they used the blowtorch in the kitchen.MORE NEWS: NYPD: Landlord-Tenant Dispute Suspected In Canarsie Fire That Seriously Injured 2
Two Evergreen Court employees and two Spring Valley Department of Buildings workers face lesser charges in the case.