Store Settles With Familes of 'Charleston 9'

The Sofa Super Store and its owners have agreed to a $1.9 million settlement with the families of nine Charlestion firefighters who perished in a blaze at the business four years ago, according to The Post and Courier.

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The money will be split among the families of Engineer Brad Baity, Capt. Mike Benke, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Firefighter Earl Drayton, Assistant Engineer Michael French, Capt. Billy Hutchinson, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Capt. Louis Mulkey and Firefighter Brandon Thompson.

More than $18 million in settlements have been paid out over years of litigation involving more than two dozen defendants, Kevin Dean, an attorney who represents some of the families, told the newspaper.

Dean said the families decided it was in their best interest to settle rather than have to wait through a lengthy appeals process.

"It just came to the point where it was not worth the continuing aggravation," he said.

The Sofa Super Store and its owners remained the last major defendants.

The wrongful death suits alleged that the multiple changes and additions were made to the building without adhering to national fire and electrical codes, leading to the rapid spread of the fire from a loading dock into the store's showroom, according to the news report.

The suits contended that the store's maze-like layout made it impossible for firefighters to escape the June 18, 2007 blaze.

The store and its owners also settled with nine former firefighters who sued over alleging physical and emotional ailments as a result of the blaze.