Scaffolding Collapse Injures 2 Firefighters at World Trade Center Building

A section of scaffolding surrounding a condemned skyscraper being dismantled at the World Trade Center site collapsed Thursday, injuring two firefighters and some construction workers, officials said. Two other firefighters died in a blaze at the same building last week.

Demolition of the former Deutsche Bank skyscraper had been suspended after Saturday's blaze, but workers on Thursday were still busy removing toxic debris from its remaining 26 stories.

The scaffolding collapsed along the side facing ground zero shortly before 2 p.m., fire department spokesman Frank Gribbon said. Two firefighters and some construction workers were injured; the extent of their injuries was not known, the department said. Further details weren't immediately available.

The accident occurred on the same day that fellow firefighter Joseph Graffagnino, who died along with Robert Beddia in the weekend blaze, was laid to rest at St. Ephrem's Church in Brooklyn. The body of Graffagnino, an eight-year FDNY veteran, arrived atop a fire truck for his funeral service attended by his family, hundreds of firefighters, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Fire marshals have also been at the partially demolished building investigating the cause of the weekend fire.

Officials acknowledged Wednesday that the fire department had not regularly inspected the building, vacant since it was damaged by the falling twin towers during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They also did not have a plan to fight a fire there, two steps that were required, the city said.

They discovered after the fire broke out that a standpipe was broken, which left firefighters without enough water to fight the flames.

Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino, 33, and Robert Beddia, 53, became trapped on one of the burning floors and died of cardiac arrest and smoke inhalation after their oxygen ran out.

The main contractor taking down the building has also been dropped from the job. Project manager Bovis Lend Lease sent a default notice Wednesday to John Galt Corp., giving Galt five days' notice before it could terminate the contract.

"Galt has demonstrated an inability to comply with the terms of its trade contract with respect to site supervision, maintenance and project safety," Bovis executive James Abadie wrote in a letter to Galt executives.

Galt has been cited with dozens of safety violations. One citation came after a 15-foot pipe fell 35 stories through the roof of the local firehouse in May. The company was cited early this month after torch work sent burning sparks down through the building.

Messages left for Galt, which has about 200 workers on the project, weren't immediately returned.

The 41-story building has been empty since it was damaged by falling wreckage during the terrorist attack on World Trade Center six years ago. It was being dismantled floor by floor, a dangerous process because it is contaminated with asbestos and other toxins.

The Fire Department had not inspected the standpipe since April 2006, although it was required to do so every 15 days, the city said. The statement cited the inspection records available on paper, and officials said some checks might not have been logged.

The head of the city's fire union said the Fire Department had told the local firehouse over a year ago to stop the inspections because of health concerns in the toxic building.

After the fire, no asbestos has been found in any of 337 air samples taken so far from the building and the immediate area, the city Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday.

Tests were continuing, the agency said.