NJ firefighters die in massive blaze aboard ship: officials

Two New Jersey firefighters died in a fire aboard a cargo ship carrying cars, officials said. 

Two New Jersey firefighters died in a fire aboard a cargo ship carrying cars, officials said. 

Screengrab from WABC-TV

UPDATE: The two Newark firefighters who died in the fire were identified as Augusto Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks, Jr., 49, the NewarkDepartment of Public Safety announced the afternoon of July 6 on Facebook. Acabou served 9.5 years with the department and Brooks served 16.5 years. Three other Newark firefighters were hurt while responding to the blaze, according to officials.

The original story continues below.

Two firefighters died as flames spread aboard a large, Italian-flag cargo ship docked in a New Jersey port, according to officials and reports.

The massive fire that killed the two Newark firefighters began around 9:30 p.m. July 5 on the Grande Costa D’Avorio ship docked at Port Newark, WABC-TV reported. The port is about 20 miles southwest of New York City’s Manhattan borough.

The blaze stemmed from several cars catching fire on the “roll on/roll off” vehicle vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard’s First District, which also responded to the blaze, wrote on Twitter at 2:17 a.m. on July 6.

About 5,000 vehicles total had been on the cargo ship, according to WABC-TV and NBC News.

As Newark firefighters tried extinguishing the fire, several were “pushed back by the intense heat,” Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said at a news conference, according to WABC-TV.

“Two firefighters were lost while conducting this action of backing out of the structure,” Jackson said.

Officials didn’t release their identities as of the morning of July 6.

Several other firefighters were hurt while responding to the flames, City of Newark Council President LaMonica McIver wrote July 6 on Twitter.

According to a July 6 news release from the Grimaldi Group, an Italian company that operates the Grande Costa D’Avorio, the fire started on the ship’s 10th floor as vehicles were being moved

The ship’s 28-member crew “immediately activated the on-board fire suppression procedures while the local firefighting service were alerted, and their prompt response played a crucial role in containing and bringing the fire under control,” the group said in a statement.

The company said it’s unclear how the fire began and it will investigate alongside authorities.

After the fire began, it spread upward to the ship’s 11th and 12th decks, Jackson said at the news conference, according to NBC News.

The Grimaldi Group said its “thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with their families and team currently.”

The company employs about 17,000 people and is Italy’s largest ship-owning company, according to its website.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter on July 6 “we are mourning the loss of two Newark firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and pray that those who were injured have a full and speedy recovery.”

“This tragedy is a painful reminder of the dangers our firefighters face and their remarkable courage,” Murphy said.

This story was originally published July 6, 2023, 10:34 AM.

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Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.