Jury awards $183 million to New York firefighters in deadly 2005 blaze

The "Black Sunday" fire trapped six firefighters who were forced to jump from the fourth story of a building in the Bronx.
By Fred Lambert  |  Feb. 23, 2016 at 1:10 PM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- A jury awarded $183 million in damages to five New York firefighters and their families in connection with a deadly 2005 blaze known as "Black Sunday."

A State Supreme Court Jury found the city 80 percent responsible for the deaths and injuries of six firefighters forced to jump from the fourth floor of a tenement in the Bronx after becoming trapped while battling a fire on Jan. 23, 2005. The jury leveled 20 percent of the liability at the building's landlord for illegally sub-dividing the tenement.

Unable to find a fire escape due to illegal drywall partitions, the firefighters headed for the windows to save themselves. Lt. Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew were killed, while four others suffered multiple broken bones. One of the survivors, Joseph DiBernardo, died six years later.

Vito Cannavo, a lawyer representing the firefighters and their families, said the city failed to equip the emergency workers with climbing ropes.

"Had the six firefighters had the available use of those ropes at the time, no one would have died that day," Cannavo reportedly said.

Meyran's family settled its case before Monday's verdict.

New York's Law Department said it was considering an appeal, saying too much blame was placed on the city.

On the same day in 2005, another firefighter, Richard Sclafani, was killed after becoming trapped in the basement of a burning house in Brooklyn.

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