Manhattan: New indictments in 2007 death of 2 firefighters.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Manhattan: New indictments in 2007 death of 2 firefighters.

Deutsche Bank fire investigation concludes with indictments

NEW YORK - Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced Monday the results of the investigation into the August 18, 2007, fire at the Deutsche Bank building, located at 130 Liberty Street, in which Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino lost their lives.

Three individuals and one company have been indicted for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the deaths of the firefighters. Those indicted are Jeffrey Melofchik, the Site Safety Manager for the project’s construction manager, Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc.; Mitchel Alvo, the Director of Abatement, for Bovis’ subcontractor, The John Galt Corp., and Salvatore DePaola, foreman. GALT has also been indicted on the same charges.

In addition, the District Attorney’s Office has reached agreements with the City of New York and Bovis, which require the City and Bovis to institute major remedial safety measures.

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, caused the South Tower of the World Trade Center to collapse onto the Deutsche Bank building, creating a 15-story gash in the building’s north side. The collapse filled the building with debris, asbestos, World Trade Center dust, and other hazardous substances. The building’s sprinkler system was permanently disabled, leaving the building’s dry standpipe system as the only means of bringing water into the building for fire fighting. (A dry standpipe system is “dry” until it is charged with water when firefighters connect a water source (e.g., a hydrant) to a Siamese connection on the outside of the building which connects to risers ascending vertically within the building to each floor.)

Because of the contamination of the building, it had to be demolished. A plan was formulated simultaneously to decontaminate and deconstruct it; such a project had never been done before in New York City. Bovis was selected by the building’s owner, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (“LMDC”), to be the construction manager. Bovis, in turn, selected Galt to do the deconstruction and abatement work.
The simultaneous abatement and deconstruction clearly made the building a fire hazard. Acetylene torches were used to cut the steel and concrete superstructure while abatement was going on floors below. At least seven small fires occurred in the building in the three months before the fatal fire