Dramatic Video From 'Good Morning America' Producer of Fatal Deutsche Bank Fire Shown at Trial

NY Daily News - April 14, 2011

by Melissa Grace

Manhattan jurors watched dramatic never-before-seen video Wednesday of the inferno at the former Deutsche Bank building that killed two firefighters.

The tape was played at the trial of three construction supervisors charged with manslaughter in the deaths of Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia.

The minute-long video and a series of 38 photographs were shot by TV producer Richard McHugh, who recorded the blaze from his apartment before the first fire truck arrived.

"I looked up and saw a fire in the middle of the building," McHugh testified.

A "Good Morning America" producer, McHugh is heard on the video reacting to the growing flames.

"Good God, we got to get out of here," he said on video he shot beginning at about 3:30 p.m. that day.

"There goes the Deutsche Bank building," the awestruck McHugh said.

He did not immediately evacuate. Instead, he spent 40 minutes shooting video and snapping a series of eerie photographs.

They show a wild inferno, billowing black smoke and firefighters calmly climbing scaffolding surrounding the toxic Liberty St. tower, which is across from Ground Zero.

A second witness, Monica Swendsrud, also snapped photographs that day - the first at 3:34 p.m. and the last at 4:49 p.m., when she was evacuated from her home.

"Did you ever see water placed on the fire during that hour and six minutes?" Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann asked.

"No, I did not," Swendsrud said of the Aug. 18, 2007 blaze.

Graffagnino and Beddia died of smoke inhalation on the tower's 14th floor at around 5 p.m.

The lack of water is key to the prosecution's case. They claim site supervisors Jeffrey Melofchick, Mitchel Alvo and Salvatore DePaola ordered a water pipe critical to fighting fires cut during demolition of the building damaged on 9/11.

Defense lawyers argue that water would not have saved Graffagnino and Beddia because giant fans used to contain toxic materials in the building sucked massive amounts of smoke to the area where they died.

McHugh said firefighters who fought the blaze on the outside of the building were showered by falling debris.

"The fire got bigger, fairly quickly," McHugh told jurors. "It seemed to engulf the \[top\] of the building."

McHugh said he and his wife went to the roof of his Greenwich St. home after snapping pictures of the building directly across the street from their home.

"They were watching the fire sitting in lounge chairs," McHugh said of other building residents - some of whom probably lived through the terror attacks - who had also gone to watch the fire.