PORTLAND – The family of a 19-year-old Raymond man has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the owner of a cabin that burned down two years ago near the Sunday River ski resort.

Zachary Smith died in the early morning fire on Feb. 22, 2008. He and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Emily Sandberg of Cape Elizabeth, were staying in a remote cabin about four miles north of Newry. They both worked at Sunday River.

Around 3:30 a.m., something sparked a fire inside the A-frame cabin. Sandberg escaped and ran barefoot for about a mile to the closest house, where she called for help. The cabin was destroyed by the time firefighters arrived.

Sandberg was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she was treated for exposure and burns.

The cause of the fire was officially listed as undetermined because the cabin was too badly damaged to pinpoint how it started. State investigators said there was a propane lamp in the cabin, but the most likely ignition source was an Atlantic wood stove.

Kenneth Smith, Zachary’s father and the personal representative of his estate, filed a lawsuit last Friday in Cumberland County Superior Court. The complaint alleges that the property owner, William Churchill of Durham, failed to maintain a safe dwelling.

The lawsuit claims that the wood stove was defective or not properly installed, and that there were no working smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors, making the cabin unfit for habitation.

”As the owner, Churchill had an obligation to maintain the camp in reasonably safe condition for those renting, occupying and using it,” wrote Kenneth Smith’s lawyer, Elliott Epstein of the Law Offices of Pickus & Epstein.

Smith’s family seeks unspecified damages for funeral expenses, emotional distress, and the conscious pain and suffering they say Zachary Smith endured before he died.

Attempts to reach Churchill on Wednesday were unsuccessful.


Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

[email protected]


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