A Chinese student who leapt five floors from her burning flat and died could have been saved if water sprinklers had been installed in the building.
At a hearing, deputy NSW coroner Hugh Dillon criticised building regulations, the local council and developer Ray Finianos who built the Sydney block 10 centimetres short of the 25-metre threshold that requires sprinkler systems to be installed in properties.
In handing down his findings into Connie Zhang’s death, Dillon said she could still be alive if sprinklers had been installed at the Bankstown building.
“The most effective fire safety measure in any building housing multiple occupants is a fire sprinkler system,” Dillon said.
“Had such a system been installed, it is almost certain Connie would not have perished.”
Dillon also said regulations aimed at ensuring the building was constructed to strict standards, had failed.
“In part the failures were caused by the fact that the Bankstown City Council section responsible for following up safety orders was under-resourced; in part by what appears to have been lax or incompetent management by the strata agent; and in part by what appears to have been an insouciant attitude to fire safety on the part of the developer,” he said.
During the inquest, Finianos denied he had shaved a few centimetres off the building’s height to ensure it did not exceed an effective height of 25 metres to avoid the cost of installing sprinklers.
Dillon has recommended that sprinklers be installed in all new shared residential buildings regardless of height.
When the fire broke out, Zhang and her friend Ginger Jiang were trapped in a bedroom.
The women climbed through a window and on to a ledge as the fire’s temperature increased to at least 600C.
Both then jumped from the ledge and Zhang died on impact from multiple injuries.