Fire on Cargo Ship Carrying 1K Vehicles Kills 2 Firefighters

Crew in New Jersey port was loading cars and trucks bound for West Africa
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2023 1:52 PM CDT
Fire on Cargo Ship Carrying 1K Vehicles Kills 2 Firefighters
In this image taken from video, smoke rises from a cargo ship early Thursday in the port of Newark.   (WABC-TV via AP)

Two firefighters were killed and five others injured battling a blaze that began deep inside a docked cargo ship carrying more than a thousand vehicles, officials said Thursday. Responding firefighters found five to seven vehicles already on fire when they reached the 10th floor of the cargo ship at Port Newark around 9:30pm Wednesday, the AP reports. The blaze quickly extended to the 11th and 12th floors, and as firefighters were pushed back by the intense heat, two of them were lost, Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said at a news conference at the port, where the fire was still burning early Thursday.

Firefighters initially weren't able to find their colleagues, and outside rescue companies from around the state were called in. Augusto "Augie" Acabou, 45, and Wayne "Bear" Brooks Jr., 49, were pulled out but died, Jackson said. Three Newark firefighters and two Elizabeth firefighters were treated for injuries including smoke inhalation. All were expected to recover. Marine traffic trackers show the Italian-flagged Grande Costa d'Avorio, which was built in 2011, 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 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 the blaze. It said no electric cars or hazardous cargo was on board and no fuel spills have been detected. Shipboard firefighting is a unique skill, and Newark firefighters don't commonly face this kind of fire, Jackson said. He said they trained on ships before, but on vessels that had living quarters, not a ship like this. "Although this is a difficult fire, a different type of fire, they're still willing to put themselves on the line for others," the chief said. The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that it will investigate the fire, but the Coast Guard is taking the lead, said an NTSB spokeswoman.

(More firefighters stories.)

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