Volume 78 - Number 30 / December 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
3 indicted in firefighters’ deaths in Deutsche blaze
By Albert Amateau
Three construction supervisors were indicted Monday for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the deaths of two firefighters in the August 2007 fire in the Deutsche Bank building next to the World Trade Center site.
Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph Graffagnino, 33, died from smoke inhalation on the 14th floor of 130 Liberty St., where a fire raged through nine floors of the building, which was being demolished because of damage during the World Trade Center attack in 2001.
New York City and Bovis Lend Lease, the prime contractor, were not indicted, although the grand jury report found that the company and many city agencies had been negligent.
“Anybody who could have screwed up, screwed up here,” said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on Monday.
Beddia and Gaffagnino were members of Engine Company 24, located in the firehouse where Ladder Company 5 is also housed on Sixth Ave. at Houston St. Eleven firefighters from that firehouse died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The three men indicted on Dec. 22 were Jeffery Melofchik, site safety manager for Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc., construction manager for the demolition; Mitchel Alvo, director of abatement for the John Galt Corp, subcontractor for Bovis, and Salvatore DePaola, a Galt foreman. The John Galt Corporation was also indicted for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
The fire was started by a discarded cigarette on the 17th floor of the building, which was undergoing simultaneous asbestos abatement and demolition.
The grand jury report said the Fire Department failed to conduct a thorough inspection of the building prior to the fire; that the Department of Buildings failed to detect a 42-foot missing section of the standpipe in the basement that was supposed to provide water that should have reached firefighters inside the building; and that D.O.B. also failed to make sure the building had unobstructed egress and clear stairwells during demolition.
Bovis had been selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the federally funded state-city agency that bought the Deutsche building four years ago. Bovis selected Galt to do the abatement and deconstruction.
As a result of the investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office signed an agreement with the city that the Fire Department would organize a new inspection team for construction, demolition or abatement with 25 civilian inspectors. Bovis has agreed to develop a comprehensive standpipe, smoking prevention, fire prevention and first responder safety program at 130 Liberty St.