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Cited in 9/11 Deaths
Deny Fire Families Right to Radio Suit
The Chief-Leader - Friday, May 13, 2005
BY GINGER ADAMS OTIS
Relatives of a dozen firefighters killed on 9/11 expressed anger and disappointment last week when a Federal appeals court tossed out their lawsuit against radio giant Motorola and the city.
In a 21-page decision, Manhattan's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged the "great sacrifice" made by firefighters, but said that the plaintiffs had waived their right to sue by choosing to receive money from the Victim Compensation Fund.
'Miscarriage of Justice'
"It's an immense miscarriage of justice," said Sally Regenhard, founder of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "We, and the victims we represent, are being denied our right to due process."
Ms. Regenhard's 28-year-old son Christian, a Probationary Firefighter, perished along with his entire crew from Engine Company 279 when the towers collapsed. She has maintained that her son, whom she called a "disciplined person," would have evacuated if he'd heard such a command.
The multi-million dollar suit blamed Motorola and the city for "faulty hand-held radios" that kept some firefighters from hearing evacuation orders before the Twin Towers came down.
Motorola has said that communication problems on 9/11 were caused by an overloaded network, not its Sabre radios.
But the lawsuit cited the 1993 WTC bombing as proof that city officials had known for years that the radio system didn't always work property in skyscrapers. Firefighters on the upper floors of the towers couldn't consistently communicate with commanders below during that attack.
That same radio system was used in 2001, the suit alleged. Had the plaintiffs gotten a chance to state their case in front of a jury, lawyers planned to show footage of firefighters unsuccessfully trying to talk to each other via the Sabre radios on 9/11.
"The Victim Compensation Fund was not designed to protect families Ñ it's a complete misnomer," Ms. Regenhard said bitterly. "It was designed to make sure that the truth about what really happened that day never comes out. It should have been called 'The Guilty Parties' Protection Plan."
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