Lawyer in deadly fire at hotel clings to life

By BARBARA ROSS
and MAKI BECKER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A New York lawyer rescued from a deadly fire that killed two of her colleagues at a Virginia inn was on a ventilator and drifting in and out of consciousness yesterday, her mother told the Daily News.

"Well, she's doing better," said the weary Nazin Toos in a phone interview from the waiting room next to the intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Toos' daughter, Margaret Mansouri, 26, was lucky enough not to be burned, but she suffered serious smoke inhalation when a fire broke out at the 204-year-old Clifton Inn near Charlottesville on Friday.

Mansouri, an attorney with prestigious Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, was one of nine representatives from the New York firm in town to recruit University of Virginia law school grads.

Billie Kelly, 48, the head recruiter for the firm, and another recruiter, Patricia (Trish) Langlade, 45, were killed in the fire. The two women were found unconscious in a room on the second floor of the historic inn. Firefighters speculated in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that one may have been trying to alert the other to the fire.

Kelly, who lived in Riverside, Conn., leaves behind her husband, Brian; two sons, James, 12, and Dan, 10, and a stepdaughter, Elizabeth, 22. Langlade lived in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. She leaves behind her husband, Gerald, and two daughters, Laura, 11, and Tracey, 10.

Mansouri's mother said yesterday that her daughter never heard the smoke alarm go off after the fire broke out at about 5 a.m. Friday.

"She was up because of the smoke," Toos said - not an alarm. Firefighters had to break down her door to save her, Toos said.

Yesterday, fire and county government officials said the fire was still under investigation and that details would be released tomorrow.

The owner of the inn, J. F. Legault, told local newspapers that the Clifton Inn was equipped with smoke detectors and that it had always passed inspections.

As Mansouri recuperated yesterday, Langlade's heartbroken friends gathered to mourn and pray at Epiphany Catholic Church just outside Stuyvesant Town, where Langlade grew up.

"We have to come to terms with grief and sorrow because this typical Saturday has been broken sadly by the news of the tragic death of Patricia," said Msgr. Walter Niebrzydowski.

Myron Trepper, a partner at Willkie, said Kelly had a national reputation for her recruiting skills. "Her contributions to the firm have been immeasurable," he said. "She was part of the fabric of the firm."

The inn was once home to U.S. senator and state Gov. Thomas Mann Randolph, the son-in-law of Thomas Jefferson.