FDNY BLACK SUNDAY BRONX FIREFIGHTERS FAMILIES AGREE ON $29.5 MILLION DOLLAR SETTLEMENT WITH CITY; WILL ALSO RECEIVE $50 MILLION FROM BUILDING OWNER
September 20, 2016
The families of five firefighters who died or suffered catastrophic injuries when they were forced to jump from a burning Bronx apartment building in 2005 settled their suits against the city Monday, months after a jury awarded them one of the largest verdicts in city history.
The settlement, for $29.5 million, brings the total the families will receive in damages from the “Black Sunday” disaster to about $80 million, including a separate agreement reached with the E. 178th St. tenement’s owner right before a Bronx jury gave its whopping $183 million verdict in February.
The suit had centered on the Fire Department’s failure to issue firefighters personal safety ropes that would have let the men escape from the burning building. The FDNY had taken away the ropes in 2000, but has since returned to equipping smoke-eaters with ropes, a hook and a sliding device.
A lawyer for the victims said their families wanted to move on, rather than see the case go to an appeals court, which may have reduced the verdict.
“They wanted to find some peace in their lives and put this behind them,” attorney Vito Cannavo told the Daily News. “They proved the point they wanted to make, that the city was wrong in taking away those ropes.”
On Jan. 23, 2005, five firefighters and a lieutenant responding to a call on E. 178th St. just off the Grand Concourse were soon trapped in a smoky maze of illegally subdivided apartments. Unable to find the fire escape, and with flames creeping ever closer, the men leaped from the building’s fourth floor.
Lt. Curtis Meyran, 46, of Battalion 26, and Firefighter John Bellew, 37, of Ladder Co. 27, were killed on impact.
Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo died six years later as a result of his injuries. Firefighters Eugene Stolowski, Jeffrey Cool and Brendan Cawley survived, but sustained life-changing injuries.
Just hours after the Bronx blaze, Firefighter Richard Sclafani was killed in an unrelated fire in Brooklyn.
Lawyers for the Bronx victims and the city met last week with Chief Administrative Judge Doug McKeon to hash out the deal, which was finalized at a hearing Monday. A city Law Department rep called it “fair and in the best interests of the city.”
Meyran’s family settled his case separately.