A Minnesota mom is suing Walmart after her 6-year-old daughter was burned to death and her 9-year-old daughter severely injured from a fire in the parking lot.
According to court documents obtained by the Miami Herald on Thursday, 33-year-old Essie McKenzie said her two girls, Ty’rah and Taraji, were sleeping in the back of her minivan when she arrived at the Walmart Supercenter in Fridley, Minnesota, at around 6 a.m. on August 6, 2019. Instead of waking them up since they were exhausted from waking up early to take their grandmother to the airport, the mother decided to leave them in the car while she completed the grocery shopping. While she thought they would be safe for a couple of minutes, that turned out not to be the case.
When Essie came back outside minutes later, her vehicle was engulfed in flames. She quickly ran towards her daughters, but first responders stopped her while firefighters attempted to get her daughters out of the minivan. The mom was forced to watch until they eventually pulled out the little ones. Having to watch this horrific scene unfold while knowing her kids were inside? We cannot imagine how devastating that must have been.
Ty’rah ended up going into cardiac arrest but was revived in the parking lot before being rushed to the local hospital. However, she sadly succumbed to her injuries later on. Taraji survived but was left “permanently disfigured,” per court documents. So, so sad.
How did this freak fire start? Investigators say it began with a camping stove in another vehicle next to Essie’s minivan. Apparently, a couple from California had been traveling in their 2005 Dodge Caravan and decided to pull over and camp out in the parking lot of the Walmart in Fridley. On the morning of August 6, the husband, Roberto Lino Hipolito, made breakfast using the camping stove but put it in the back of their car “without waiting for it to cool.”
They then drove from the back of the lot into the parking space closer to the store entrance – the space that was right next to Essie’s minivan. While the man was inside the store, the stove suddenly went up in flames. His wife attempted to put out the fire but was unsuccessful. Their vehicle became completely engulfed by the flames and the blaze soon spread to Essie’s car – burning her youngest daughter alive and severely injuring her other child.
Roberto was sentenced to 120 days in jail and three years probation in 2020 after pleading guilty to two counts of “negligent fire causing great bodily harm.”
But now, Essie has also filed a lawsuit on June 6 against Walmart. She claims the company has a “well-known” policy of letting people camp out in store parking lots overnight without monitoring those visitors to ensure the safety of everyone. She accused the corporation of failing to ensure their guests safety and inform the public about “the potentially dangerous condition” created by their camping policy and this lack of supervision. The suit states:
“Walmart encouraged and permitted a dangerous condition on its property. [Walmart] escalated that danger by failing to provide staff to oversee the appropriate use of its parking lot as a campground. Unmonitored overnight guests pose a foreseeable heightened risk to other Walmart shoppers and nearby residents.”
Her attorneys are seeking a minimum of $75,000 in relief. A spokesperson for Walmart, Randy Hargrove, reacted to the lawsuit to McClatchy News, saying the corporation “plan(s) to defend the company and will respond in Court to the Complaint as appropriate.” He added:
“Our sympathies remain with the friends and family impacted by this tragic even three years ago.”
What do you think about this lawsuit, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments (below).
[Image via Good Morning America/YouTube, KARE 11/YouTube]