Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

Print Comment RSS

Architect pleads not guilty in LA firefighter's death

Flames burned through plastic sprinkler pipe, filled attic with water until ceiling fell on 61-year-old Firefighter Glen Allen

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Authorities charge that the sprawling home a German architect designed and built was shoddily put together, contributing to the death of a firefighter who died when a water-saturated ceiling collapsed on him during a fire.

Gerhard Albert Becker, 48, who also owned the mansion and was the construction contractor, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Authorities allege that the shoddy way the home was built, including putting a fireplace on the third floor that was designed only for outside use, caused the blaze.

"The fire started as the result of gross negligence," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. Beck also said he was not aware of any other case in which shoddy building work led to an involuntary manslaughter charge.

"It's certainly rare," he said.

Becker was jailed on $2 million bail and ordered to return to court March 1 for a preliminary hearing. His attorney, Chad Lewin did not immediately return a message left for comment.

As the blaze that began in the fireplace raged through the house, authorities said, it melted a plastic sprinkler pipe. That filled a false ceiling that was made of drywall and wood with water and caused it to collapse.

The ceiling gave way as firefighter Glenn Allen was fighting the flames. Chainsaws had to be used to free Allen from the debris, and he died two days later. Five other firefighters were injured.

Allen, 61, had been with the Los Angeles Fire Department nearly 40 years and was less than a year away from retirement.

Before the just-completed three-story home burned down on Feb. 16, 2011, it was to have been the location for a photo shoot for the reality TV show "Germany's Next Top Model."

Becker left the country soon after the fire, but authorities said there was no indication he was fleeing to avoid arrest. He is a German citizen and his 90-day visa was about to expire, Beck said.

Associated PressCopyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

He was arrested Saturday by FBI agents and authorities when he arrived in Los Angeles from Spain, where he also has a home.




Comments
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FireRescue1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.

FireRescue1 Offers

Safety
Safety

Sponsored by

Connect with FireRescue1

Mobile Apps Facebook Twitter Google+

Get the #1 Fire eNewsletter

Fire Newsletter Sign up for our FREE email roundup of the top news, tips, columns, videos and more, sent 3 times weekly
Enter Email
See Sample