FORT WORTH - The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is taking administrative action against a Fort Worth liquor store for selling alcohol to one of the minors who perished, along with five others, in a fire earlier this month at a Granbury mobile home, officials said.
Officials have said that alcohol consumption likely contributed to the victims' inability to escape the fire, which erupted on the morning of March 6 after an all-night party at the home of a teenager whose father was out of town.
Capt. Charlie Cloud, a regional commander at TABC, said the Hood County Fire Marshal contacted his office after information surfaced that an underage partygoer may have bought alcohol at USA Liquor, 9116 Camp Bowie Boulevard, on March 5.
"It is our understanding that he bought three bottles of vodka," said Cloud, declining to release the minor's name, but he said that the youth died in the fire.
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One week after the fire, Cloud said, investigators sent in a minor to buy alcohol at the liquor store during a sting operation and an employee did sell alcohol to the underage patron.
Based on that, Cloud said, TABC will proceed with administrative action against the location, which could lead to their permit being suspended or canceled, as well as a fine. Additionally, he said the employee who sold to the underage patron will be charged with selling alcohol to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, the owner, who declined to give his name, acknowledged that he screwed up recently during the sting operation and did not ask to see the customer's identification.
"I was so tired and exhausted and I wasn't even paying attention," he said. "I check ID's and if they're too young, they aren't getting anything. I work six days a week and I was tired. ... It was one of those screw-up things."
However, the owner said, he does not intentionally sell alcohol to minors and doesn't know how authorities can prove or disprove whether a minor who died in the Granbury fire bought alcohol at his business. He pointed out that a 30-year-old died in the fire, clearly old enough to legally buy alcohol.
"I don't know if they have proof or whatever," he said. "I don't have any cameras. ... I just want to get this thing over with and move on. I'm just trying to make a business. If I lose this, I'll be out in the streets like everybody else."
Officials have said that a large group of friends from Fort Worth were partying on March 5 at 18-year-old Calvin Reineck's home in the 4500 block of Wildwood Circle, six miles southeast of downtown Granbury and 38 miles southwest of Fort Worth. In the early morning hours, nine of the partygoers fell asleep at the home, while Reineck's sister, Celeste, drove several others back to their homes in Fort Worth.
On the way back to Granbury, about 5:45 a.m., Celeste Reineck struck a tree and was taken by helicopter ambulance to a Fort Worth hospital.
About 30 minutes later, a fire broke out at the Granbury house, where the rest of the partygoers were sleeping. Three escaped, but six others, including Calvin Reineck, perished.
The other victims were identified as Alexis Schooley, 17; Vivian Rodriguez, 18; Nick Evans, 19; Savannah Marrero, 16; and Tim Moran, 30. All grew up in the Fort Worth area.
Fire Marshal Brian Fine said on Wednesday that the cause of the fire is still under investigation and that he is awaiting lab results before making a final determination. He expects to have the results in the next few weeks, he said.