Fatal Fire Still Burning on Newark Cargo Ship

Two Newark Firefighters Lost Lives Trying to Calm Blaze
Fire on Newark cargo ship
Emergency personnel battle against a fire aboard the Grande Costa d'Avorio cargo ship at the Port of Newark on July 7. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

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NEWARK, N.J. — A cargo ship burned for a third day July 7 at a New Jersey port after the fire claimed the lives of two firefighters and exposed gaps in the ability of fire crews to respond to emergencies on hulking containerships.

Crews shot jets of water into the Italian-flagged Grande Costa d’Avorio docked in Newark as flames flared periodically from the section of the ship where hundreds of vehicles were loaded onto multiple decks.

The Coast Guard and other officials were set to hold a news conference later July 7 to give an update on the situation.

Newark firefighters Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr. died fighting the blaze that broke out the night of July 5 on the 10th floor of the ship. The fire quickly reached the 11th and 12th floors as firefighters were forced to retreat in the intense heat. Five other firefighters were injured.

Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said the department had trained on ships before, but not the specific kind of cargo vessel they’re confronting now. He described the vessel as unique and unlike passenger-carrying ships the department had previously trained on.

Acabou and Brooks Jr.

Acabou (left) and Brooks Jr.

Marine traffic trackers show the ship, which was built in 2011, had arrived from the Port of Baltimore several days earlier.

Grimaldi Deep Sea said the fire broke out on the ship’s 10th deck as its 28 crew members and local stevedores were completing the loading of more than 1,200 new and used cars, vans and trucks bound for West Africa.

The company’s statement said the crew immediately activated on-board fire suppression procedures and the local firefighting service was alerted, triggering a prompt response that was crucial to containing and controlling the blaze. It also said that no electric cars nor hazardous cargo is on board, no fuel spills have been detected, and the stability of the ship was not been compromised.

The Grimaldi Group statement said the cause of the fire isn’t known, but it will investigate in cooperation with authorities.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate but the Coast Guard is taking the lead, said Jennifer Gabris, an NTSB spokeswoman.

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