Jill Renick's death inside Omni Houston Hotel during Harvey was 'easily preventable,' says lawyers

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The family of a woman who drowned in the basement of the Omni Hotel during Hurricane Harvey has filed a suit stating her death was preventable.

Jill Renick, 48, was the Director of spa services. The Omni is located in a floodplain right next to Buffalo Bayou just outside Loop 610 at Woodway.

According to a lawsuit filed Monday, Renick fought for her life. Some of her desperate last moments were recorded on hotel security video.

As Harvey's floodwaters were rising, the lawsuit says, for an unknown reason, Renick was summoned downstairs around 5:15 a.m. She took a service elevator and ended up in the basement.

After a desperate phone call for help, she pried the elevator doors open to escape to the basement. According to the lawsuit, a video shows her struggling against the flow of water. Eleven days later and only after the water receded, her body was found wedged in the ceiling.

READ MORE: Body recovered of Omni hotel worker who went missing during Hurricane Harvey

"She knew she had to find air and oxygen and presumably that's why she climbed up the ceiling tiles to get to the last amount of air," said Dallas attorney Rob Crain, who filed the suit on behalf of Renick's mother and sister. "I cannot even think about putting myself in her shoes at that point and time. Must have been just horrific."

Crain says the hotel had ample warning, knew the basement was flooding and was prone to flood, based on previous weather events. Additionally, he says the elevators should have been equipped with flood sensors that would have disabled the cars from operating. Otis Elevator is also named in the suit.

In response, a spokeswoman for the hotel chain sent this statement:

"Per company policy, Omni Hotels and Resorts does not comment on pending litigation."

Renick's family wants answers. Her death, they believe, was preventable.

"Omni is a major American corporation and this type of safety failure is just inexcusable," added Crain.

The Omni has not yet reopened since the hurricane. The suit is filed in Dallas County, where Omni's corporate headquarters are located.
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