In a devastating incident at Port Newark, two firefighters tragically lost their lives while fighting a fire on a ship. The fire broke out on Wednesday night, engulfing multiple vehicles on the ship docked at Export Street and Marsh Street in Newark. Despite their best efforts, the firefighters became trapped and succumbed to the intense heat. The victims were identified as Augusto “Augie” Acabou, a nine-year veteran of the Newark Fire Department, and Wayne “Bears” Brooks Jr., who served for 16.5 years. The incident has left the city of Newark mourning the loss of two brave firefighters.
The fire started on the 10th deck of the ship, named the Grande Costa D’Avorio, as crew members and local stevedores were moving cars, vans, and trucks. It quickly spread to five to seven cars and reached the 11th and 12th floors of the vessel. Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson explained that the firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire but were forced to retreat due to the intense heat. Tragically, they were later found inside the ship and pronounced dead.
Mayor Ras Baraka expressed his grief and admiration for the fallen firefighters, emphasizing their selfless sacrifice. He described the poignant scene of their bodies being lowered from a pulley while fellow firefighters paid their respects. The mayor also highlighted the dangerous nature of firefighting and the need for improved safety measures.
Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson acknowledged that fighting fires on ships carrying vehicles was a unique challenge for the department. Five firefighters were injured during the operation, with three from the Newark Fire Department and two from the Elizabeth Fire Department. They were promptly transported to University Hospital in Newark for treatment. The ship, which typically operates between the U.S. and West Africa, was carrying over 1,200 vehicles and 157 containers.
Mayor Baraka expressed his intention to engage in a thorough discussion with the Port Authority regarding firefighting protocols at their locations. He emphasized the need for a resolution to ensure the safety of firefighters and the public. Governor Phil Murphy also extended his condolences to the families of the fallen firefighters and praised their courage.
The Grimaldi Group, the company that owns the ship, expressed their condolences and gratitude for the prompt response of the firefighting services. They stated that the crew immediately activated on-board fire suppression procedures, and the local firefighting service played a crucial role in containing and controlling the fire. The company pledged to cooperate fully with the authorities in investigating the cause of the fire.