Firefighters risk their lives every day to keep us safe. They know exactly what they are getting into when they board their fire trucks and head toward burning ships, cars, and buildings. But sometimes, negligent parties cause unnecessary hazards for these brave individuals. Sometimes, firefighters lose their lives due to the reckless, irresponsible actions of others. If you are the family of a deceased firefighter, you might want answers. What caused your loved one’s death? Could it have been prevented? How can you achieve closure? These are the very same questions being asked by two families as they sue the City of Newark for wrongful death in New Jersey

Newark Sued for $50 Million After Two Firefighters Perish

City-of-Newark-Sued-After-Fatal-Cargo-Ship-FireLast July, a pair of firefighters lost their lives battling an inferno on a cargo ship at Port Newark. As the months passed, their families learned more about the incident and determined that the City of Newark was to blame. As a result, they have filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city – accusing Newark of gross negligence. 

The cargo ship in question was the Grande Costa d’Avorio, which burst into flames at Port Newark while carrying numerous vehicles. The ship is owned and operated by a company in Naples, Italy – and this company was also named in the lawsuit. The two families have accused Newark of failing to properly train the two firefighters it sent out that fateful day. The families also claim that the firefighters were not provided with the proper equipment to combat the fire.

The family is suing two additional defendants: The terminal operator and the company that loaded the vehicles onto the ship. Finally, they are suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. 

The two firefighters died after becoming trapped on Deck 10 of the cargo ship – surrounded by burning vehicles on all sides. In total, there were 1,200 “junk vehicles” on board the ship that day, which they were headed for West Africa. 

Government authorities are still looking into the accident – including the US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. While these investigations have revealed little about the incident so far, independent media investigations have been more successful. One source found that Newark did not have the resources or experience to fight such a major fire. Perhaps most notably, the investigation supports claims made by the families: The firefighters received zero training on how to fight fires on cargo ships – or any maritime vessels of any kind. 

There is also evidence that firefighters were sent onto the ship even when the crew had been removed from the fire alive and well. In other words, no one was facing any risk of death. There was no need to send firefighters into the inferno, and it is unclear why commanders issued this order. 

The families say that this is about more than money. With this lawsuit, they hope to improve training for firefighters in Newark – ensuring a tragedy like this never happens again. It seems unthinkable that a major port city like Newark would not train its firefighters on how to fight ship fires. Both of the victims died from oxygen asphyxiation, which is the most common fire-related cause of death. 

The response to the fire may raise questions about Newark’s city planners, but the fire itself was caused by errors made by other parties. It began when a Toyota burst into flames while being “rammed” onto the ship in a questionable manner. The fire could have been contained if the ship’s CO2 fire suppression system had been operational. Unfortunately, this system relied on watertight doors, and a hatch failed to close. With the hatch open, the crew could not cut off oxygen to the fire, which continued to spread. 

A further investigation found that even if the hatch was operational, the control panel was located inside the ship. In other words, a crew member would have had to seal himself inside the burning vessel to engage the CO2 suppression system. In doing so, he would have almost certainly sacrificed himself, starving himself of oxygen and filling his lungs with CO2. Based on these revelations, the lawsuit argues that the ship was never seaworthy – and it should have never sailed. 

Work With a Wrongful Death Lawyer in New Jersey

A wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey can provide your family with justice, closure, and compensation. If your loved one died on the job, workers’ compensation might not be your only source of compensation. You might also have the ability to sue negligent parties, and this can potentially provide you with higher levels of compensation. To learn more about your legal options, be sure to book a consultation with Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. 

The firm’s principals, Gabriel R. Lependorf and David E. Silverstein, have each been representing injured victims in the State of New Jersey for over thirty years.

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