JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The law firm of Pajcic & Pajcic filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of 10 employees with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department who were injured during a ship explosion at Blount Island in June, claiming the owners of the ship were negligent in maintaining it, therefore, endangering their lives.
The injured employees represented by the suit include two chiefs, two lieutenants, two engineers, two paramedics and two firefighters.
A fire initially broke out on the Norway car carrier ship, Hoegh Xiamen, on June 4 when the vessel was leaving JaxPort with used vehicles aboard it.
"The ship's crew had turned off the Fire Alarm System, allowing a fire to start, burn and spread unabated in the cargo docks," according to a news release. "... When rescue arrived, they encountered a vessel belching smoke, a crew unable to speak English -- and unable to communicate where the fire was or how to get to it. That forced the rescuers to go blindly onto the 600 foot burning vessel... as temperatures reached more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit."
The suit claims there wasn't a water sprinkler system aboard the ship to help firefighters tackle the blaze.
“It was a recipe for disaster," Attorney Curry Pajcic told First Coast News.
While 150 JFRD crews were battling the fire, an explosion suddenly occurred, injuring the 10 firefighters.
"The heat from the explosion and the power of the blast severely burned the faces, hands and bodies of the firefighters... throwing others down flights of stairs, snapping bones, tearing flesh and causing severe physical and emotional trauma as the first responders believed they were going to be trapped inside the ship and burned to death," the news release said.
The ship continued to burn for several days afterward.
“These firefighters ran into the fire to prevent a disaster. Thankfully, due to the hard work of our firefighters and our fire and rescue division, it was averted. But 10 of our true American heroes are going to have to live with the consequences of the defendant’s conduct," Attorney Pajcic said.
A ninth firefighter also received treatment from heat exhaustion obtained while fighting the fire.