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On July 17, 2013, a St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office command center and several other official vehicles were parked outside The Coachman Supper Club. Yellow crime-scene tape was hung around the front of the building. (Photo by Judy Wiff)

Insurer seeks records of phone calls made during Coachman fire

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An insurance company is asking for a subpoena to access cell phone calls allegedly made by a restaurant owner who claimed intruders forced him to spray a flammable liquid inside a landmark St. Croix County business.

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The case involves a property damage claim resulting from a fire that occurred July 16, 2013, at The Coachman Supper Club in Baldwin.

Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company’s petition, filed in St. Croix County Court, says Surinder Singh Manak’s cell phone records indicate activity during the time he was allegedly tied up. But the records the insurance company has received show only calls placed and received. Grinnell doesn’t have access to any text messages and wants to see those.

Grinnell filed a petition for a pre-litigation subpoena to obtain the cellular phone records, including text messages and cell site tower information, from Verizon Wireless.

The Coachman property may be covered by a Grinnell policy issued to S and K Inc., which is owned by Manak, 59, of New Richmond. His wife, Parminder Manak, owns PK Manak Inc., the corporation that bought The Coachman in March 2013.

According to the petition, on the day of the fire, Surinder Manak says he arrived at The Coachman at 11 a.m., and the last customer of the day left at about 10:30 p.m.

“It is alleged that three men then entered the restaurant and robbed Mr. Manak,” says the insurance company’s petition. “One of the men allegedly instructed that Mr. Manak spray a substance that smelled like gasoline on everything in the restaurant. The men then allegedly tied Mr. Manak with rope, left him in the bar and started a fire.”

The insurance company says Manak told its investigator he was tied up for 45 minutes but managed to roll himself to an exit door after the restaurant started on fire.

The Baldwin Fire Department was dispatched to the fire at 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16. News reports at the time indicated 10 other area fire departments responded.

Baldwin Fire Chief Gary Newton said the restaurant had major smoke and fire damage, and it took firefighters about an hour to put out the flames.

Manak was taken to the hospital by ambulance for treatment of smoke inhalation.

Dana Brueck, communications officer for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said the State Fire Marshal has an open investigation with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office with regard to the fire.

“Given it’s an open investigation, I don’t have any other information to report,” said Brueck in an email.

“It is an active and ongoing investigation at this point,” agreed Brent Standaert, the county’s lead investigator on the case, saying also that there’s not much he can say now.

According to Grinnell’s attorney, although no action has been started, Manak has stated that his lawyer has advised him to file a lawsuit with respect to the insurance claim.

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Judy Wiff
Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.
(715) 426-1049
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