Charges filed in '06 fatal Bronx fire

Two firefighters were killed in fire at a 99-cent store in Mt. Eden
March 3, 2008 6:46:47 PM PST
A building engineer is facing perjury charges for a store fire that killed two firefighters in the Bronx. Eyewitness News reporter Lisa Colagrossi has the story from the courthouse in Melrose.

About half of all building projects each year are self-certified by architects and engineers. That was the case at the "Mega 99" store. Now, the Bronx district attorney is blaming the engineer for failing to inspect the site where two firefighters were killed.

The fire happened back in August of 2006 inside the store, locatd in the Mount Eden section.

Fire department investigators say rotting support columns gave way, sending about 10 firefighters into the store's basement and trapping firefighter Michael C. Reilly and his boss, Lt. Howard J. Carpluk Jr., for almost two hours.

"The loss of these two heroic firefighters will stay with all of us, for the rest of our careers, and the rest of our lives," one fire official said.

Several months ago, the fire and building departments concluded its investigative reports that building engineer, Jose Vargas, had approved plans to renovate the building without conducting the required final inspection of the work.

The Bronx district attorney has now decided to press charges against Vargas for failing to fully inspect the construction work, and then lying to investigators studying the deadly fire.

Vargas' attorney says his client is being used as a scapegoat, and that Vargas had approved plans for replacing the building's roof and would never have had any reason to inspect the basement or the columns that supported the floor.