SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – “Betty was the glue that held this family together, and Jane and Chris were pinnacles in this family.” Betty Greenhaw, her daughter Jane Cummings and Jane’s husband Chris Cummings were inseparable. “This was a family who was involved in each other’s lives,” Daniel Walker, one of the family’s attorneys said.
The three Texans were killed last July during flash flooding on the burn scar in San Miguel County while visiting their cabin. A place that was in the Greenhaw family for generations. “This was somewhere where they gathered, not once a year, twice a year, but many, many times throughout the year, months at a time. This was the place where their family created memories,” Walker said.
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He says if it wasn’t for the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire, that later led to flooding in the burn scar, his clients would still be alive and their cabin would still be around. “The damages that were caused to this family, this tight-knit, very close family, has been destroyed by the negligence of the Federal Government and the U.S. Forest Service.”
The family plans to file a lawsuit against the Federal Government which started the fire during a prescribed burn. He believes the feds should have protected people from the flooding after the fire. “Had they taken the proper actions after the wildfire to properly warn people, to shore up the land that had been damaged from the fire, and to evacuate people in areas that were susceptible to life-threatening flooding, then this incident would not have occurred,” Walker said.
He wants justice for the family and to make sure the feds pay for their mistakes. “We hope that by bringing this lawsuit we will encourage the Government to act better in the future, to implement better policies, better procedures, so that instances like this never happen again.”
Walker believes they have a leg up because of the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act that was signed into law last year by President Biden outlining the missteps made. “There’s a long road ahead to obtain justice for our clients but it’s a fight we are happy and willing to proceed with,” he said.
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, there’s a six-month waiting period before a lawsuit can be filed. Walker says they plan to officially file after that.