Tenants Whose Illegal Walls Trapped, Killed Firemen Found Not Guilty

When firefighters Curtis Meyran and John G. Bellew entered 234 East 178th Street on January 23, 2005 to fight a fire started by a faulty electrical cord, they were "disoriented" by illegal, windowless partition walls, prosecutors charged, which trapped them and necessitated their fatal leap from the building's fourth floor. The tenants who put up the partitions to accommodate weekly rentals, Rafael Castillo and Caridad Coste, and the building's past and present owners were charged with manslaughter for causing Meyran's and Bellew's deaths. A decision in the owners' case is pending, but Castillo's and Coste's jury verdicts were unsealed this afternoon, and they have been found not guilty. The Post reports that at the announcement, firefighters and the victims' widows were stunned, defendants relieved.


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