New York firefighters Lt. Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, who died in the Deutsche Bank building fire, were honored yesterday with two bronze plaques that will hang in the Greenwich Village” firehouse where the two were assigned.
But an ongoing criminal probe linked to the fire cast a shadow on the tribute for Graffagnino, 33, of Brooklyn, and Beddia, 53, of Staten Island.
No one directly addressed the probe during the ceremony for the fallen firefighters, held on the anniversary of the Aug. 18, 2007, blaze. Instead, fellow firefighters remembered Beddia and Graffagnino after the bagpipes silenced. About 200 firefighters, friends and relatives packed into the firehouse for Engine Company 42/Ladder Company 5.
Beddia, a 24-year veteran who earned three citations for bravery, was enamored with Greenwich Village, where he loved to walk to various restaurants to try unique cuisine. He also tended bar part-time and was an avid golfer.
Graffagnino, a nine-year veteran, was remembered for his compassion, strength and sense of humor. He was also called a great husband to his wife, Linda, and father to their children, Mia, 5, and Joseph, 21 months. Friends admired him for his hard work and dedication to become a lieutenant, a rank he was promoted to posthumously on June 19.
When the plaques honoring the two men were unveiled, Mayor Michael Bloomberg grabbed the shoulders of a weeping Linda Graffagnino to console her.
Bloomberg said he was honored to join the families, but said “nothing would please me more if we never had to put another plaque on the wall of any one of our firehouses.”
After the ceremony, talks turned to the ongoing investigation. The criminal probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office began shortly after the fire.
One aspect of the investigation is reported to be whether the city should be held criminally liable for the deaths of the firefighters. Because the city is a corporation it can theoretically be held criminally responsible under state law which allows any corporate entities to be charged.
On Aug. 18, 2007, Beddia and Graffagnino became trapped on the 14th floor of the burning Deutsche building, which was being demolished. Both suffered severe smoke inhalation and went into cardiac arrest.
Plastic sheeting, which was used to keep toxins from spreading, created mazelike conditions in the building. Also, the building’s standpipes, which supply water, weren’t operational.
The firefighters’ families have filed notices of claim against the city, blaming various agencies assigned to inspect the building.
Since the fire, the city has worked to increase fire safety and better monitor construction and demolition work.
West Coast 911 firefighting news source – Newsday