Families of Newark Firefighters killed at Port Newark file $50M Lawsuit.


The families of two firefighters who died last July aboard a burning cargo ship at Port Newark have filed a $50 million wrongful death complaint in federal court, alleging that the city, the shipping company, and others were negligent, careless, and reckless in causing the men’s untimely deaths.

What happened to Families of Newark firefighters?

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday, claimed that Newark failed to adequately educate and equip the seasoned firefighters to deal with the dangerous conditions they encountered aboard the Grande Costa d’Ivoire when fire swept through the car-carrying vessel. It further claimed that its owners, Grimaldi Deep Sea of Naples, Italy, operated the ship in an “unreasonably dangerous and unseaworthy condition.” Augusto “Augie” Acabou, 45, and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr., 49, died during the night of July 5 after becoming trapped on Deck 10 of a freighter carrying 1,200 highly combustible junk vehicles and trucks heading for West Africa. The United States Coast Guard is currently examining the cause of the fire, the National Transportation Safety Board, and state, local, and federal agencies. Hearings were conducted earlier this year. However, a months-long investigation by NJ Advance Media revealed that the state’s largest city was unprepared to combat a massive fire at one of the country’s busiest ports. 

Detailed View of the Incident:

That article was based on interviews with firefighters and marine fire experts, public records and court papers, hours of radio traffic, and terrifying internal incident reports, which were only made available when attorneys for the news organization forced Newark to release them. It discovered that Newark firefighters and command officers tasked with protecting one of the country’s busiest ports had little to no training in dealing with naval fires. Firefighters were sent deep into the ship the night of the incident, despite being told by commanders that the crew of 28 had all been accounted for and that no lives were in danger, according to incident reports, rather than simply containing, cooling, and suppressing the fire, as response teams would later do.

The families’ complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, alleged that the city’s fire department not only failed to train to suppress fires on ocean-going ships but also negligently ordered firefighters to board the Grande Costa d’Avorio “without sufficient manpower, equipment, training, and/or knowledge.” The families’ attorney, Mark Apostolos of Sullivan, Papain, Block, McManus, Coffinas & Cannavo in Hackensack, stated that no money could bring back the two men’s lives. “However, this action seeks justice for the great loss their families have endured. We also hope it will lead to reform so that such tragedies do not occur again,” he said.

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