$183M Awarded In Black Sunday Blaze That Killed Firefighters

NEW YORK (AP) -

A jury has awarded $183 million to five firefighters or their families in a case stemming from a tenement blaze on a day known as Black Sunday.

Two firefighters were killed in the Jan. 23, 2005, Bronx fire. Four others were severely injured, including one who died in 2011 as a result of the blaze.

The jury on Monday found the city 80 percent responsible for the deaths and injuries. The building’s owners were found liable for 20 percent.

In February 2010, a judge overturned convictions against the owner and manager of the apartment building, where tenants had constructed a labyrinth of illegal walls.

The firefighters’ lawyer, Vito Cannavo, had argued that the city failed to equip them with the proper ropes to escape; they jumped to get out of the surging blaze.

The case highlighted the hazards of using temporary walls for illegal apartment conversions. The tenants had turned their living quarters into a deadly maze so they could make extra cash renting rooms, prosecutors said.

About $140 million of the award is to be paid by the city. The rest is to be paid by one of the building’s former owners.