Defense questions firefighter in 'Black Sunday' trial

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Firefighters who survived the deadly ?Black Sunday? blaze that claimed the lives of two of their colleagues in 2005 continued their testimony Wednesday.

Retired firefighter Jeffrey Cool was pressed by defense attorneys for using a personal safety rope to escape the burning building, even though the ropes were banned by the FDNY shortly before the incident. Cool suffered extensive injuries from the fall, despite his use of a safety rope. He broke his neck, back and 12 ribs, which ultimately forced him to retire from the department. The defense argued that had Lt. Curtis Meyran and John Bellew also had safety ropes in their possession that day, they may have survived the fall.

The three defendants in the trial, Cesar Rios, the building?s landlord, Rafael Castillo and Caridad Coste, are accused of erecting an illegal partitioning wall, which, according to Cool and prosecutors, made it more difficult for firefighters to contain the flames.

However, the defense has argued that had all the firefighters been equipped with safety ropes, the tragedy could have been averted.

During a cross examination, a defense attorney pointed to a media report, where Cool said the rope saved his life and could have helped his colleagues.

Cool responded by saying that he cannot be sure his statement was repeated word for word.

Also heard during the trial Wednesday were radio transcripts. One transcript included a firefighter reporting evacuation from the burning apartment by using the fire escape. The defense pointed out that this transcript included the only mention of people trapped inside, and also indicated the firefighters had time to access the escapes.

Cool says this was the first fire during which the Handie Talkie radios were recorded and transcripts may be missing.

The three other firefighters who survived the fire are expected to testify later in the trial.

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