Death Of Fireman Due
To Faulty Safety Equipment
The Star Ledger Archive
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KIN SUES BREATHING APPARATUS
FIRM IN THE DEATH OF RUTHERFORD FIREMAN
TERRI P. GUESS
The family of a volunteer
Rutherford firefighter killed in the line of duty last year has filed a
lawsuit against the company that manufactures a breathing apparatus he
was wearing at the time of the incident. The lawsuit was filed in Superior
Court in Hackensack yesterday, a year and five days after Thomas Dunn perished
while battling a fire that destroyed a two-story home in the borough. Martin
Kronberg, the attorney representing the Dunn family, said the family is
claiming damages for the loss of the firefighter’s life. Also listed as
plaintiffs are a colleague, Michael Jacobs, and his family. Jacobs was
injured in the fire.
According to the suit, both
men were injured due to negligently designed, self-contained breathing
apparatus manufactured by Scott Aviation, a Figgie International company
in New York. Kronberg said in court papers that the Polypropylene-carrying
harnesses, which held oxygen tanks on the backs of the plaintiffs, melted.
As a result of the defect, the suit maintains, Dunn’s face mask was pulled
off, exposing him to lethal products of combustion, which caused his death.
The tank on Jacobs back began to slide off, delaying his exit from the
house and causing severe burns and related injuries, the court papers said.
Kronberg said both families waited a year after the fire to file the suit
because it took them a while to deal with the incident.
‘‘They were so distraught
and upset they didn’t want to think of doing something for some time,“
he said. Dunn is survived by his wife, Paola, and three young children.
Authorities said the fire began in the basement of a home on College Place
and spread through the walls before reaching the second floor. Dunn became
engulfed by flames when the space between the exterior and interior walls
caused a hidden pocket of fire which ultimately caused a “flashover”, a
sudden burst of flame, said Fire Chief Anthony Dombrowski. Dunn became
trapped in an upstairs bedroom during the blaze while searching for survivors
in the house. Jacobs, who was also on the second floor, was able to roll
down the roof to escape the blaze. Authorities at Hackensack Medical Center
said Jacobs suffered second- and third-degree burns to 20 percent of his
body. Dunn was a postal worker for the Bulk Mail Center of Jersey City
and a four-year member of the Rutherford Rescue Company No. 5. He was remembered
by his colleagues as a well-educated man who was liked by his peers
and dedicated to his job.