'Black Sunday' FDNY Families Reach $29.5M Deal

Journal News - September 23, 2016

by Matt Spillane

The families of five New York City firefighters — two of them from Rockland County — have reached a $29.5 million settlement with the city over a fatal 2005 Bronx blaze. The settlement was negotiated after a jury last February awarded $183 million to the five families. The deal is tied to a tenement fire on Jan. 23, 2005, in which firefighters became trapped and jumped out of the four-story building.

Two firefighters, including Pearl River's John Bellew, were killed. Three others, including Pomona's Jeff Cool, were severely injured, and one of those firefighters later died of his injuries.

The lawsuit against the city and landlord had accused the city of negligence for failing to provide proper equipment that would have allowed the firefighters to escape. The jury found the city 80 percent responsible for the deaths and injuries and the landlord 20 percent responsible.

The paperwork for the settlement with the city was filed Monday, said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's Law Department.

"This was a tragic episode in the city's history and for these firefighters and their families," he said in a statement. "The settlement is fair and in the best interests of the city."

The families of Bellew, Cool, Joseph DiBernardo, Eugene Stolowski and Brendan Cawley were involved in the settlement. Stolowski, Cawley and DiBernardo were injured in the fire; DiBernardo died of his injuries in 2011.

The families' lawyer, Vito Cannavo, and Cool could not immediately be reached for comment

The family of Lt. Curtis Meyran, who died that day, settled in a separate case.