Crews Continue to Battle Cargo Ship Blaze that Killed Two New Jersey Firefighters

July 10, 2023

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) __ Fire crews on Saturday continued to battle flames that have smoldered inside a cargo ship docked at the East Coast’s biggest port, days after the blaze claimed the lives of two New Jersey firefighters and injured five others.

Newark firefighters Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr. were killed in the Wednesday night fire aboard the Grande Costa d’Avorio, an Italian- flagged vessel carrying thousands of vehicles and other goods that was at port in Newark.

Marine firefighting specialists made considerable progress after “actively conducting fire suppression both pier-side and on the water,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

“As of Saturday afternoon, the fire is contained on the 11th deck and is being suppressed and no longer spreading to other areas of the vessel,” the statement said.

Officials said fire crews arriving at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday reported a blaze in the rear of the ship on the 10th to 12th levels. About an hour later, a mayday call was issued after a firefighter became trapped inside, and a second mayday call was issued for another firefighter.

Acabou, a firefighter for more than nine years, was rescued from the ship before midnight and was later taken to a hospital, where he died Thursday morning. Brooks, a firefighter for more than 16 years, died early Thursday morning after he was recovered. Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags to fly at half-staff in the honor of the two, who were remembered by friends and family at a memorial service Friday.

Officials said five other firefighters were injured, one suffering “steam burns from water accumulated on the cargo ship`s floor” and the other four — two from Newark and two from neighboring Elizabeth — experiencing such things as heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and respiratory distress. Public safety officials said all three Newark fire captains were released from the hospital and the burn victim was in stable condition and completing his recovery at home.

Authorities say an investigation to determine the cause of the fire can’t begin until the fire is out. Officials said “a salvage plan will be developed and implemented once the fire is extinguished and the vessel had been deemed safe to move.”

Authorities had said debris inside the ship was clogging outflow spouts so the large amount of water being poured onto it could not drain out, causing the ship to tilt, but they said Saturday that efforts to remove water __ which included poking holes in the hull __ had improved the situation. The vessel is stable “with a slight list to the starboard side” and a one- to two-degree list would continue “as a way to accelerate the dewatering process,” they said.

Officials also said Saturday that air monitoring had shown nothing “above actionable levels.” Cargo containers aboard had mostly food, but the cars were “the bigger concern,” the governor said. Grimaldi Deep Sea said no electric cars nor hazardous cargo was on board and no fuel spills had been detected.

In 2020, a fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, a $1.2 billion Navy amphibious assault ship, burned for nearly five days in San Diego and the vessel eventually had to be scuttled.

Top photo: Emergency personnel battle against a fire aboard the Italian-flagged Grande Costa d’Avorio cargo ship at the Port of Newark, Friday, July 7, 2023, in Newark, N.J. The cargo ship burned for a third day Friday at the port after a fire that claimed the lives of two Newark firefighters Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr. , and exposed gaps in the ability of fire crews to respond to emergencies on hulking container ships. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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