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One of the main reasons that have been highlighted by the prosecutors is that the pressure to clear up the asbestos from the basement was intense and the contractors were constantly being forced to finish the work. Because of an increased pressure, the contractors and the workers working under the contractors were working in a miscalculated manner. One of the wrong decisions that were made by the contractors was to ignore the broken water pipe in one of the floors being demolished. This has been highlighted as evidence by the District Attorney Joel Seidemann in one of his closing arguments at the trial that had been going on since two months in the Manhattan Supreme Court
Other than the three contractors, the third party that had been under investigation for more than 16 months was the New York City itself. In this case, the court mentioned that the city authority has failed to outline the rules to safeguard the building. The court decided in December 2008 that the city was not to be indicted or charged for the damage caused to the building based on the fact that many legal obstacles could be expected afterwards (Association of Fire Chiefs International 30).
The company, Bovis Lend Lease that hired the subcontractor to work in the former bank building has also not to be indicted. Bovis Lend Lease was responsible for the removal of asbestos and demotion of the floors of the bank
Arguments of the Prosecutors
In this case, an important question that was raised by the prosecutor was that if the deaths of the firefighters were only because of the terrible circumstances that awaited them or was there any involvement of the criminal negligence and conspiracy. Defense lawyer Edward Little added that the deaths may have been caused because of greed and conspiracy planned by highly irresponsible people who were less concerned about the lives of firefighters.
The three construction supervisors are now facing charges of manslaughter, homicide based on criminal negligence, and last one being reckless endangerment. Another party that has been also involved is the company involved in recruiting the three construction supervisors in the bank, John Galt Corp. The trial has highlighted that the three men were used as a scapegoat in the case of an inspection of the building for the presence of hazardous materials in the building. In addition to this, it has been highlighted by the District Attorney that the broken standpipe left ignored by the three construction workers was the main reason of an unavailability of water for the firefighters. As important evidence, the statements given by many firefighters on the stand have shown that the most crucial element was the water that was supposed to be supplied by the standpipe (Bureau of National Affairs 65).
Arguments of the Defense Lawyers
It has been claimed by the defense lawyers that the firefighters were not the employees of the building and they could not be expected to be aware of the broken standpipe. Thereby the unavailability of the water is not the main factor involved in the death of two firefighters. In addition, the defense lawyers argued that the features that were used to contain some of the highlighted hazardous materials in the buildings were there for destruction of the floors that was also under the sole awareness of the bank itself and under the accidental circumstances of the fire, the features became the obstacles itself. They argued that an additional factor that has been highlighted by the prosecutors include the air that played an important role in spreading the fire. As a reply to this, defense lawyers have argued that the air cannot be counted as a factor of the casualties along with the sealed stairwells
It has been added that the contractors have years of experience and it is implausible to think that they were unaware of an importance of the standpipe even in the presence of hazardous substances on the floors.
The defense lawyers had argued that the three men who were charged were the scapegoats. Three days before Christmas, when the district attorney of Manhattan announced the indictments, Robert M. Morgenthau, a settlement with the New York City was also announced. The New York City admitted that carelessness was made in the proper inspection of the building by the Fire and Buildings Departments. Based on the announcement of the settlements, the city announced that it would make major changes that are needed in the procedures of construction inspection
Reactions of the Families of the Firefighters
On December 8, 2008, the prosecutors briefed the families of the firefighters about the case. The first complaint that was made public by the families of the firefighters was that they could not see justice being done to their families. This reaction was based on the court decision of not indicting the city and Bovis Lend Lease. In the initial stages of the case, Bovis Lend Lease made an offer for the damages to the families that highly offended the families. The offer made by Bovis Lend Lease was seen as a way to negotiate with the prosecutors and also a way to cleanly walk out of the case. But later in the month it was seen that the families reached an agreement with Bovis Lend Lease to accept an offer of U.S.$5 million. With this the main condition that was put on Bovis Lend Lease by the families was that even they are paying for the damages, they will not be barred from pursuing the civil lawsuit against the New York city, John Galt Corporation or Bovis Lend Lease
Bovis Lend Lease had hired the John Galt Corporation for the removal of asbestos as well as the demolition of the former bank building in New York under the sole authority of state development officials. An important fact that has been highlighted by the case prosecutors is that the John Galt Corporation is based on an amalgamation of the executives of two different companies that have had no previous experience in construction.
Families of the firefighters have mentioned that they also plan to pursue a civil lawsuit against the ones involved, as they want to know the answers and the main reasons because of which two firefighters lost their lives. The father of one of the firefighters, Joseph A. Graffagnino, considered pursuing a civil lawsuit, a bribe (Eligon 2011).
The investigators have highlighted that no one single party or a person is solely responsible for the life of the two firefighters. Many parties and people are to be blamed for the deadly and a tragic accident. The authorities in the bank had to be aware of the security procedures in the case of any emergency as hazardous material was being used in the building during the demolition procedures. The city construction departments were responsible for the proper inspection of the site and checks on the security checks that were being taken. The fire department was responsible for accurate preparation to fight such a large scale and it was important that the firefighters were in constant communication.
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Italiano, Laura. FDNY Firefighter Recalls Fatal Deutsche Bank Fire. 2011. 29 November 2011. http://www.firehouse.com/news/top-headlines/fdny-firefighter-recalls-fatal-deutsche-bank-fire
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Association Of Fire Chiefs International, Fire Inspector: Principles and Practice (Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011) 38.
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Amory Lovins, Marvin (FRW) Odum, and John W. (FRW) Rowe, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011) 29.
Bureau of National Affairs (Arlington, Va.), Construction labor report, Volume 55, Issues 2710-2736 (Bureau of National Affairs, 2009) 53.
John Eligon, Final Defendant Acquitted in Deutsche Bank Fire (July 6, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/nyregion/final-defendant-is-acquitted-in-deutsche-bank-fire-trial.html
David K. Li, Contractor acquitted in Deutsche Bank fire (July 6, 2011) http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/contractor_acquitted_of_toip_charges_URvu3k7r9WgfA7BPVEgZJO
Amory Lovins, Marvin (FRW) Odum, and John W. (FRW) Rowe, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011) 79.
Laura Italiano, FDNY Firefighter Recalls Fatal Deutsche Bank Fire (5th May 2011)…[continue]
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