March 21, 2011 / 8:44 PM / 8 years ago

Trial stemming from deadly Deutsche Bank fire begins

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Monday in the manslaughter trial of three construction supervisors accused in the deaths of two firefighters in a blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building in lower Manhattan.

The fire broke out in 2007 as the building, contaminated by toxins in the September 11, 2001 attacks, was in the process of being dismantled.

Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph P. Graffagnino, 33, were killed by smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning in a massive nine-floor fire in the building.

Another 115 firefighters were injured in the fire, 46 of whom were forced to take medical leave due to their injuries.

Prosecutors said the construction supervisors knew about but did nothing to fix a break in a water pipe that prevented an emergency supply of water from reaching the building.

They said the construction foreman Mitchell Alvo 58, foreman Salvatore dePaola 56, and site safety manager Jeffrey Melofchik, 49, were careless and negligent. They were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

If convicted of the charges, the three men face up to 15 years in prison.

The defendants have said that they are being made scapegoats, citing a litany of inspection oversights by building inspectors and government agencies including the Fire Department.

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune

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