Nearly four years after a seven-alarm fire killed two firefighters at the under-dismantling Deutsche Bank site, a construction supervisor was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Salvatore DePaola cried after also being cleared of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment, "It's a happy day and a sad day, We've still got two firefighters that are deceased."
Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino, 34, and Robert Beddia, 56, died in the blaze that was started by a construction worker's cigarette. A large piece of the standpipe—which would have carried water up to the firefighters—was missing, leaving them without resources to battle the flames. The NY Times reports, "Prosecutors charged that a crew working under Mr. DePaola, 56, removed part of a standpipe during abatement work in the fall of 2006... Mr. DePaola, [co-defendant Jeffrey] Melofchik, the site safety supervisor, and a third defendant, Mitchel Alvo, the director of abatement, ignored the removal of a 42-foot section of the standpipe as they rushed to finish the abatement work on time to protect the corporate bottom line, prosecutors argued."
DePaolo claimed that he had no idea it was a standpipe, because it was black like "5,000 other pipes in the building." And apparently jurors believed him. Graffagnino's widow told the Post, "My comment is this..I could care less about Salvatore DiPaolo and his comments. His acquittal doesn't affect my life or the lives of my children one way or another. The only good that could come of this is that maybe the next time he works on a job of such importance, he will be more conscious of his actions and how they might affect his life or the lives of others....as far as I'm concerned this was the fault of many..many of who will never be held accountable."
Besides questions about building safety practices during the dismantling of the former Deutsche Bank site, which was ravaged by the 9/11 attacks, the tragedy also raised concerns that the FDNY was not doing enough for the building's safety either.