Hose kink in smoky darkness disoriented firefighter in ship blaze that killed 2 colleagues

A kink in a fire hose stretched out in the smoky darkness of a cargo ship fire disoriented a New Jersey fire captain as he tried to follow the hose back to safety, separating him from two other firefighters who later died amid the blaze, the captain testified Tuesday.

Newark Fire Department Capt. Oswald Robetto testified at an investigative hearing being held by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board into the July 5, 2023, fire on board the Italian-owned Grande Costa D’Avorio.

Fire Captains Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr. died in that fire at Port Newark, one of the nation’s busiest seaports.

Robetto, Acabou and a third firefighter advanced into the smoke on deck 10, near the top of the 12-level ship where the fire broke out amid a cargo of 1,200 autos bound for west Africa.

They followed a hose line through the darkness, eventually reaching Brooks at its nozzle, who was spraying water on the ceiling, Robetto testified.

“I asked him, ‘What are you hitting?’ ” Robetto said. “He replied, ‘Just keeping the ceiling cool.’ ”

  • January 16, 2024
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