Man and owner face charges after Sardis City hotel fire

Man and owner face charges after Sardis City hotel fire
Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC
Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC
36-year-old Christopher David Cantrell. (Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC)
36-year-old Christopher David Cantrell. (Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC)
Suresh Desai. Source: Etowah County Sheriff's Office
Suresh Desai. Source: Etowah County Sheriff's Office

SARDIS CITY, Ala. - A hotel resident accused of setting fire to Budget Inn & Suites in Sardis City is now being held without bond in Etowah County Jail.

Christopher David Cantrell, 36, is charged with first-degree arson. He's accused of starting the fire in his room, which heavily damaged the hotel on Highway 431.

The fire broke out early in the morning on Saturday, April 2. Police officers were able to evacuate 50 people from 20 rooms. No one was injured.

"If it were not for three police officers from Sardis Police Department and Boaz Police Department lives would have been lost.  These officers acted heroically and without thought for themselves in saving the lives of individuals inside the rooms," Fire Marshal Investigator Ray Cumby said.

"This horrible incident could have been worse. That hotel was a death trap," Cumby added.

A notice on the Etowah County Corrections website also says Cantrell is being held for a state agency.

That agency is likely the Alabama Fire Marshal's Office, whose investigators returned to the damaged hotel.

The hotel owner Suresh Desai, 55, of Boaz, who also goes by the alias Sam Patel, is charged with 26 counts of reckless endangerment, according to the Etowah County Sheriff's Office. The charges are for each person who signed the register.

Desai is also charged with a code violation of failing to maintain fire extinguishers and other safety equipment. Deputies said the hotel's fire alarm and fire extinguishers had not been serviced in more than a year.

The investigation showed that many rooms in the hotel didn't have smoke detectors and those that did weren't working, according to the sheriff's office.

"He knew of the items that were not up to par and did not repair them," Sardis City Police Chief James Harp said.

Cumby said the fire started on the top floor of the northwest side of the hotel.

Harp has indicated Cantrell may face more charges, and Cumby said the investigation is far from over. Cantrell is being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on a $25,000 cash bond.

Desai may also face additional state and federal charges.

Desai turned himself in to Sardis City police and was released on a $14,500 bond.

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