Unanswered questions remain after New Jersey firefighters killed in raging blaze on European-made cargo ship

Investigators are searching for answers after two firefighters were killed and five others injured while battling a raging blaze aboard a cargo ship docked in Newark, New Jersey.

This is the first time since 2007 that a Newark firefighter has died in the line of duty, according to city officials.

According to Tom Wiker, president of Gallagher Marine Systems, which was hired by the ship’s owner to put out the fire, the fire was still smoldering about 36 hours after it broke out on the giant ship.

“The fire will probably burn in a few days,” Wiker said at a press conference on Friday.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, there are indications that the firefighters’ equipment is not compatible with the ship’s European-made fire suppression system, sources close to the investigation said. told ABC News on Thursday. One source said firefighters were not trained to deal with fires that broke out on cargo boats.

According to Gordon Lorenson, the fire continued to burn “very hot”, making the steel ship inaccessible to firefighters, so the crew were trying to cool it from the outside by pouring water on the ship. and kept the fire under control on the top deck, according to Gordon Lorenson. project manager at Donjon Marine, which provides marine support services.

PHOTO: A fire burns on a cargo ship, where two New Jersey firefighters died after they became trapped while battling the blaze, in Port Newark, NJ, July 6, 2023 .

A fire burns on a cargo ship, where two New Jersey firefighters died after they became trapped while battling the blaze, in Port Newark, NJ, July 6, 2023.

Mike Segar/Reuters

Lorenson said that although the ship is stable, it is currently “paralysed” to the side, mainly due to the amount of water being injected by the nozzle. He added that the crew were monitoring the situation and working to bring the boat back to “normal life” by pumping water out.

“You can do all the training in the world and you’ll find something you’ve never seen before in a fire on board,” Lorenson told reporters on Friday.

Firefighters were dispatched to the Port Newark Container Terminal on Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. ET after receiving reports of multiple vehicles on fire aboard a 692-foot cargo ship called the Grande Costa D’Avorio . According to city officials, they tried to put out the main part of the fire, but the fire spread to several floors of the ship.

The US Coast Guard also responded to the fire, describing the boat in a Twitter post as a “roll-up/roll-down vehicle cargo ship.”

At 10:25 p.m., firefighters called “Mayday” after two of them were trapped inside the burning ship and could not be seen. This was followed by a second “Mayday” call 15 minutes later, city officials said.

Two Newark firefighters – Augusta Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks, 49 – were eventually found early Thursday and later taken to the hospital, where they both died, according to officials city. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered the state flags to be flown at half-mast Friday in memory of the fallen firefighters.

“Augusto Acabou has served as a firefighter for over 9 years and Wayne Brooks, Jr. has served for over 16 years, with respectable devotion, extraordinary courage, exceptional professionalism, loyalty city ​​and is committed to the city of Newark and this state,” Murphy said in the statement. “New Jersey has lost two brave heroes who dedicated their lives to keeping our communities safe.”

President Joe Biden called the families of the dead firefighters and offered his condolences, according to a White House official.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president has been updated on the situation and the administration has been in contact with the Coast Guard and local authorities to coordinate a response.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and incident and stand ready to assist as much as we can to help contain the fire and bring port operations back to normal,” she said at a press conference today. Friday.

PHOTO: Firefighters battle flames aboard a cargo ship in Port Newark, NJ, July 5, 2023.

Firefighters battle flames aboard a cargo ship in Port Newark, NJ, July 5, 2023.


According to city officials, three other firefighters from the Newark Fire Department as well as two from the Elizabeth Fire Department were injured in the incident.

As of 5:20 a.m. Thursday, the fire was under control and the firefighting operations were mostly complete, although crews were continuing to monitor the ship. City officials said the fire was contained on the 11th and 12th floors of the ship, where the Halon fire suppression system is located.

One of the problems firefighters had was that their two-and-a-half-inch fire hose lines were not compatible with the boat’s one-inch connections, a source close to the investigation told ABC News on Thursday. Year. Instead, firefighters were forced to use the ship’s fire hydrants, which generate less water and pressure than in the past, the source said.

Firefighters were still trying to put out the flames that remained on Thursday night, both from the pier and from the shore. The Coast Guard said crews were working to reach the upper decks of the ship, which is believed to be the main source of the ongoing blaze.

On Friday morning, sparkles could be seen in the water around the boat.

According to the governor of New Jersey, the fire “spread considerably” on the ship overnight, spreading down two floors – from floors 9 to 7 – and spreading about 300 feet forward. The firefighters currently battling the blaze “are all privately contracted by the shipowner and have specialized training in firefighting at sea,” Murphy told reporters on Friday.

As of Friday night, around 10 p.m. ET, the fire was still burning on the upper floors.

Murphy noted that the boat is currently leaning 3 degrees toward the dock, which is a “growing concern”, as a 5- to 6-degree shift is considered a “danger zone”.

“Due to so much debris on board, the normal outflows are blocked and the water can’t come out at the rate it can,” he added. “Both the coast guard and a private maritime company are punching holes in the hull to allow trapped water to escape. There is no timeline as to whether the ship can reach the danger zone. dangerous or not, because it remains to be seen how successful it will be.” This operation will be.”

PHOTO: An injured firefighter is carried away by EMS personnel from the scene of a freight train fire in Por t Newark, NJ, July 5, 2023.

An injured firefighter is carried away by EMS personnel from the scene of a cargo ship fire in Port Newark, NJ, July 5, 2023.


Sailing under the Italian flag, the Grande Costa D’Avorio left Baltimore Harbor on Sunday and recently arrived in Newark. The ship was built in 2011 and is operated by Grimaldi Group, a Napoli-based company that claims to be Italy’s largest ship-owning group.

The fire started when the boat’s crew was completing cargo operations to load cars onto the ship. The crew immediately activated the ship’s fire suppression procedures, while the local fire department was alerted, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said the ship was carrying 1,200 vehicles and 157 containers were scheduled for export, none of which were electric cars or dangerous goods.

According to Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson, Newark firefighters are trained to fight flames on cruise ships and other boats that have living quarters but do not carry vehicles.

“This is definitely a unique flame for us,” Jackson said during Thursday’s press conference.

Victoria Arancio, Mark Crudele, Jessica Gorman, Karen Travers and Josh Margolin of ABC News contributed to this report.

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing edmund@ustimespost.com.

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