HFD Capt. Bill Dowling's widow sues Motorola after 2013 Southwest Inn fire

HOUSTON – The widow of Capt. Bill Dowling is suing Motorola for the deadly 2013 Southwest Inn fire.

May 31, 2013, is imprinted on Jacki Dowling's heart forever.

“It’s been horrible and I keep hoping that it will get better,” Jacki Dowling said.

On that day, a five-alarm inferno smoldered at the Southwest Inn where four firefighters, Matthew Renaud, Robert Bebee, Robert Garner and Anne Sullivan, died. 

Jacki Dowling’s husband, Capt. Bill Dowling, survived but lost his legs, suffered a brain injury and died four years later.

“It’s still very difficult. I miss him incredibly and think about him all the time,” Jacki Dowling said.

This week, she filed a lawsuit against Motorola. The lawsuit alleges that Bill Dowling’s brain injury and damages were caused by defective, untested and faulty emergency radio devices.

File: Dowling_20190226165351

Excerpts from the lawsuit add, “the Motorola radio system blocked and prevented needed emergency transmissions to get through more than 339 times” and blocked transmissions that "caused a loss of up to 27 minutes of useless or unusable rescue time to reach and recover captain Dowling.”

Jacki Dowling's attorney, Benjamin Hall, said the damage inflicted was irreparable. 

“In that 27 minutes, Captain Dowling lost all of his oxygen and sustained a permanent brain injury and as a result, four other firefighters died in the fire," Hall said. 

In April 2018, the family members of the four deceased firefighters also sued the radio maker, Motorola. Hall represented the families and said that case was settled on July 31, 2018.

Jacki Dowling told KPRC that she will never have closure but prays for peace.

“Without a doubt I never want this to happen again I want it to be fixed I want people to know that when they go into a burning building or if they go into a crime scene or whatever that they will have full belief in the system that they are using these radios and they will be able to communicate and not have any fear,” she said.

According to Hall, the lawsuit is pending in federal court. He anticipates that it will be active in the next 30 days.

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