Firefighters killed in cargo ship inferno in Newark identified

Newark officials have identified the two firefighters who died during an overnight inferno on a massive cargo ship moored in Port Newark, New Jersey.

Wayne Brooks Jr., 49, and Augusto Acabou, 45, were killed while battling the blaze, which also injured five other firefighters, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.

“Our hearts are broken by the tragedy that we experienced last night,” Baraka said at a Thursday morning press conference, adding that the two heroes gave their lives “without hesitation.”

“I just want the world to know that we just lost two of our best here in the city of Newark – two of our bravest,” he continued.

The stubborn blaze was first reported around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday but continued to burn throughout the day Thursday/

Officials said the flames have torched the top three decks of the 12-story Grande Costa D’Avorio, which is owned by the Grimaldi Group, a family-owned Italian firm that specializes in transporting cars over the oceans. Several cars contained within also caught fire, producing a remarkably hazardous environment that firefighters weren’t necessarily trained for.

The smoking cargo ship where two firefighters died in Port Newark.
Two Newark firefighters died fighting the overnight fire on a massive cargo ship moored in Port Newark
Firefighters spray the ship with water to extinguish the flames.
The fire reportedly started on the 10th floor, then spread.
Seth Gottfried

The department had been drilled on knocking down ship-borne fires, Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said Thursday. But they practiced on a different type of vessel that had compartments, living quarters and the like.

“It was some time ago,” Jackson said, adding that his department has seen significant turnover since then. “In a department of this size, training just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process.”

Five other firefighters were hurt, the chief added, three of whom were from Newark. One had burns on their feet, he said, while one was treated for heat exhaustion and another for respiratory distress.

The other two were from the neighboring city of Elizabeth, whose fire department raced to the scene alongside countless others from New Jersey and New York to help contain the blaze.

Both firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, Jackson said.

The smoking cargo ship where two firefighters died in Port Newark.
The ship is owned by an Italian company that specializes in moving cars over the oceans.
Seth Gottfried
The smoking cargo ship where two firefighters died in Port Newark.
City and state officials commended the firefighters on their tremendous bravery.
Seth Gottfried

Docked near Corbin and Marsh streets, the ship had reportedly been carrying at least 1,000 cars that were slated for refurbishment and sale overseas.

The blaze erupted on the 10th floor, then leapt up the decks towards the sky. Jackson detailed the havoc, saying two separate mayday calls pierced the wall of flames.

“We had one of our brothers lost within the fire,” the chief said. “We had the brave men and women of the Newark Fire Department [who] made the ultimate sacrifice to bring this individual out, and made multiple efforts under extreme conditions, extreme heat.”

Firefighters spray the ship with water to extinguish the flames.
The fire continued to burn into Thursday morning.
Seth Gottfried
A crane hangs over the cargo ship.
There is still no word on what might have caused the blaze that killed two and injured five others.
Seth Gottfried

“They were able to bring Firefighter Acabou out,” he continued. “Then, we had another mayday, which was Firefighter Wayne Brooks.”

Both men were from Engine 16 on Ferry Street, officials said. Acabou had been on the job for nine years; Brooks for 16.

As smoke from the conflagration continued to shroud Newark Bay in a foul-smelling fog, firefighters had already hung black bunting from Engine 16’s brick-and-mortar façade.

The American flag, hung over one of the bays, flew at half-mast in honor of their fallen comrades.

An emotional Baraka commended his city’s bravest for their unending courage in the face of fiery tribulation.

“I saw the best of our city last night,” the mayor said Thursday. “I saw Newark’s bravest struggle – with every ounce of their strength and every measure of their training – to rescue and save their brothers, who had been trapped.”

“There are no words to describe the courage I saw,” Baraka continued. “There are no words to describe our firefighters’ passionate commitment to each other. There are no words to describe their love for one another.”

It was the first time since 2007 that a city firefighter died in the line of duty, Jackson added.

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