Death count in Sept. 11 attacks increases by 1
NEW YORK – A man who died last year of lung disease was added Friday to the official list of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
New York City's medical examiner ruled that 63-year-old Jerry Borg, of Manhattan, who died in December, was killed by complications caused by a lung condition he got from inhaling dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Borg suffered from pulmonary sarcoidosis, a disease in which inflamed cells can make someone's lungs stiff and interfere with normal breathing.
The death brings the official count of World Trade Center attack victims to 2,753.
The ruling is a rarity. Thousands of people have blamed health problems on trade center dust, but Borg is only the third victim to be added to the medical examiner's list of victims of Sept. 11, 2001.
Borg was working downtown on the day of the attacks and became caught in the dense cloud of pulverized concrete and glass that billowed over lower Manhattan when the twin towers fell.
Borg's nephew, Joseph Borg, of New York City, said Friday that his uncle worked as an accountant and was doing an audit at a building at ground zero on Sept. 11. He said his uncle witnessed "the whole thing." He recalled that his uncle had some health problems before his death.
"He said something about having a lung problem before he passed away. And that he was waiting for a lung transplant," Joseph Borg said. "It might have been due to the fumes from the 9/11 accident."
He said his uncle was not married and had no children. "He lived an ordinary life. He went to work and came home. That's it," Joseph Borg said.
The other two people who were added to the medical examiner's list also were working downtown on Sept. 11.
Felicia Dunn Jones, a 42-year-old civil rights lawyer, fell ill immediately after the attacks, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis and was dead within five months. Her death wasn't ruled as officially caused by the terrorist attacks until 2007.
Leon Heyward, 45, died in 2008 of lymphoma, an illness that hasn't been conclusively linked to trade center dust, but Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch ruled in early 2009 that his cancer was complicated by sarcoidosis.
All victims of the terrorist attacks have been classified as homicide victims.
A spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office, Ellen Borakove, declined to release additional information about the circumstances of Borg's illness or personal biography, citing privacy rules.
Congress late last year created a $2.78 billion fund to compensate people who might have been sickened by exposure to trade center dust and ash, and set aside $1.5 billion to fund health programs for rescue and cleanup workers.
Medical studies have found elevated asthma rates among people who were caught in the dust cloud or spent extended periods in the trade center ruins. Fire Department medical experts have documented diminished lung power among an unusual number of firefighters who were at the site.
Hard evidence linking other ailments like cancer to the dust, however, has been elusive or inconclusive, leading Hirsch to resist immense political pressure add more people to the death count.
He famously declined to add a retired police detective, James Zadroga, to the list after concluding that the lawman's fatal lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse, not by trade center particles trapped in his lungs.
That decision remains controversial, and the sponsors of the health bill that passed in December named it after Zadroga.
Associated Press Writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.