By Wayne Parry, Associated Press:
The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are among numerous agencies trying to determine what went wrong on board the ship, an effort not only to determine what happened the night of July 5, 2023, but also to try to learn from it and prevent others from dying under similar circumstances in the future.
Investigators, port workers and ship crew members testified this week at an investigative hearing in New Jersey that will continue into next week. This account is based on that testimony.
The fire began around 9 p.m. when a Jeep Wrangler being used to push the mostly inoperative vehicles up steep ramps of the 12-level ship caught fire, causing a port worker to jump out the driver’s door and run for portable fire extinguishers that quickly proved inadequate.
The Newark Fire Department responded first to the blaze. About 45 minutes later, mutual aid assistance from two nearby fire departments, the North Hudson Regional Fire Department and the New Jersey Regional Fireboat Task Force, was requested by Newark’s fire dispatchers.
But two minutes later, a deputy fire chief canceled that request.
“He did not believe those resources were needed at that time,” Michael Richardson, a fire fatality investigator with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, testified on Friday.
Under cross examination from a lawyer for a port company, Richardson said the cancellation was made at a time when it was not obvious that the fire extended beyond some cars burning atop the ship. The decision was a significant one, particularly as conditions worsened, and numerous firefighters expressed concern about not having enough personnel and oxygen tanks at the scene, Richardson said.
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