Sprinklers could have saved Zhang

A 21-year-old Chinese student who leapt five floors from her burning flat might still be alive had fire safety measures been enforced, the coroner has found.


Connie Zhang and her friend Ginger Jiang became trapped as flames ripped through the apartment, sparked by a cigarette smoked by Ms Zhang’s flatmate Jason Zeng.

The two women were forced to climb out of a window onto a ledge as the heat ballooned to at least 600 degrees, before jumping to escape.

Ms Zhang died on impact, while Jiang is wheelchair-bound and suffers long-term disabilities.

The parents of Ms Zhang had to hear on Friday that their daughter might not have died if not for a “cost conscious” developer and incompetent strata management.

The building in which Ms Zhang lived was built just 10 centimetres short of the 25-metre threshold requiring sprinkler systems to be installed.

Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon criticised building regulations and the local council, as well as developer Ray Finianos in handing down his findings into Ms Zhang’s death.

“The most effective fire safety measure in any building housing multiple occupants is a fire sprinkler system,” Mr Dillon said.

“Had such a system been installed it is almost certain Connie would not have perished.”

But he said the developer was only partly to blame, with there being an issue with the 25-metre threshold itself.

Mr Dillon has recommended sprinklers be installed in all new shared residential buildings – such as the one Ms Zhang lived in – regardless of height.

He’s also recommended authorities research ways to lower the cost of installing sprinklers, improve research to assist fire-safety policies, formalise accreditation for fire safety inspectors and issue annual safety statements.