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Jurors Issue Second Acquittal in Deutsche Bank Fire Trial

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A jury acquitted a second supervisor in the Deutsche bank fire trial.

The jury acquitted Jeffrey Melofchik, the safety supervisor for Bovis Lend Lease, the principal contractor during the demolition of the structure at Ground Zero in New York City, of charges that included manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. A fire during asbestos abatement work in 2007 killed two New York City firefighters.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the same jurors had cleared Salvatore DePaola, the abatement supervisor for John Galt Corp. One more Galt employee, Mitchell Alvo, still is awaiting a verdict by the trial judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She has not said when she will rule.

The Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said he hoped the prosecutions had served a constructive purpose.

"We respect the jury’s verdict,” he said in a statement. “Nothing can bring back these two brave firefighters, and our thoughts are with their families. We hope that this prosecution brought necessary attention to the importance of safety in the construction and demolition industries.”

The jury foreman, Keith Spencer, told the Associated Press after the verdict that “everybody’s a scapegoat. More People should have been accountable for this.”

Unlike the previous day’s acquittal, Melofchik did not turn and point an accusing finger at senior New York City firefighting officials who were seated in the courtroom.

“It was just a project with a lot of difficult things going on, and I didn’t think anybody should be blamed for what happened,” Melofchik told reporters.

The prosecution had contended that a cut standpipe cost valuable time in getting water on the fire. It portrayed the contractor supervisors as indifferent to safety as they hurried to finish work on time and were eager to save money.

Yesterday, following his acquittal, DePaola told the media he had “no idea” the standpipe was part of a critical water supply system.

The fire was started by careless smoking in the building.

While New York City regulations require the Fire Dept. to conduct inspections every 15 days during construction or demolition, the rule was not observed or enforced at the Deutsche bank site.

The city of New York has acknowledged its errors and errors by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp., which was the owner of the structure.

The firefighters who died, Joseph Gaffagnino and Robert Beddia, died from smoke inhalation while trying to get a hose near the origin of the flames. The burning materials produced a toxic smoke.

Both sides in the case acknowledge that the lack of due diligence was a “lost opportunity” for firefighters to have been provided critical information about conditions they would encounter in the building, notably the barrier

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