By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The CBS 3 I-Team has confirmed federal investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are now heading to Philadelphia to help local investigators search for answers in the deaths of Philadelphia Fire Department Lieutenant Bob Neary and fellow firefighter Daniel Sweeney.
The two firefighters died when part of a burning vacant Kensington warehouse collapsed onto a furniture store trapping them inside. Two other firefighters were pulled from the rubble alive, but suffered injuries.
A NIOSH spokesperson tells CBS 3,”NIOSH will investigate the recent deaths of a lieutenant and a firefighter, will gather information to identify factors that contributed to the deaths, and will develop a report of findings and recommendations to prevent similar tragedies.”
So far, a team of fire department investigators, police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have not determined how the fire started.
Bill Gault, president of Firefighters Local 22, called for a grand jury to look into the deadly fire, following revealations by city officials that the owners also owned 30 other buildings citywide, many in need of repair. The city claims the owners, who have repeatedly declined comment, owe more than $385,000 in unpaid taxes.
District Attorney Seth Williams tells CBS 3 he would consider convening a grand jury to investigate, but it’s too early to make that decision which depends on many factors, including evidence that a crime has been committed.
Finally, as a crane removed pieces of the warehouse that still loomed ominously above the street, firefighters removed buckets of bricks from the scene, bricks that will now be used to expand a memorial outside Ladder Company 10, where both fallen firefighters were assigned.