Families file $50 million lawsuit over firefighters’ deaths in Newark port fire

April 9, 2024

Lawsuit alleges negligence led to fatal fire aboard cargo ship

The families of two firefighters who died in a fire on a cargo ship in Newark last July have filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $50 million.

The legal action accuses the city, a shipping company, and other entities of negligence, which they claim resulted in the deaths of the firefighters.

The lawsuit was lodged in federal court late Thursday.

According to the complaint, the city of Newark did not adequately prepare or equip the experienced firefighters to tackle the hazardous conditions they encountered on the Grande Costa d’Avorio.

The ship, filled with cars and owned by Grimaldi Deep Sea of Naples, Italy, was in a condition deemed “unreasonably dangerous and unseaworthy,” as per the lawsuit.

Additionally, the terminal operator at the port and the company responsible for loading vehicles onto the vessel are implicated in the case, alongside the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Tragic loss aboard the Grande Costa d’Avorio

On July 5, Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr. lost their lives while fighting a fire on the ship, which was carrying 1,200 used cars and trucks destined for West Africa.

They became trapped on the ship’s tenth deck amidst a fire.

The ongoing investigation into the fire’s cause includes the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with other federal, state, and local agencies.

A detailed investigation by NJ Advance Media revealed a lack of preparedness by Newark to manage significant fires at one of the United States’ busiest ports.

This conclusion was drawn from interviews, public records, court documents, radio communications, and internal incident reports.

Calls for change and accountability

The lawsuit asserts the city’s fire department failed to adequately train its personnel for fires on ocean-going ships and recklessly directed firefighters to board the Grande Costa d’Avorio without proper resources or knowledge.

Mark Apostolos, representing the families, emphasized that no monetary compensation could replace the lives lost but expressed hope for justice and preventive measures against future tragedies.

Responses from the city, Grimaldi Deep Sea, and other defendants are pending.

A Port Authority spokesperson declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation.

The suit follows months after the families indicated their intention to pursue legal action, stemming from a tragedy that has highlighted serious safety and preparedness issues in maritime and firefighting operations.

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