Trade Center Cleanup

Workers File Lawsuit

NEW YORK -- About 800 people who worked on the World Trade Center cleanup have filed a class-action lawsuit against the leaseholder of the towers and those who supervised the job, alleging they did little to protect workers from dust, asbestos and other toxins.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Friday and made public Monday, was brought against Silverstein Properties and the four construction companies hired to oversee the removal of the 1.5 million tons of debris.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for victims and establishment of a system to track exposed workers for the next 20 years. It also alleges that many workers did not have access to protective gear, and those who did were not taught how to wear it properly.

Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for trade center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, said the cleanup was conducted by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We had no control over that operation and no ability to supervise what safety precautions were taken," he said. The other defendants said they had not seen the complaint and had no immediate comment.

The government is funding six health screening programs to monitor Ground Zero workers, but none is funded beyond 2009.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that many recovery workers had respiratory problems after the cleanup. Problems include asthma, sinusitis, constant coughing and stuffy nose, facial pains, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Proper respiratory gear would have allowed the workers to block smoke, dust, diesel exhaust, pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos and other chemicals and prevent throat and lung diseases, according to the CDC study. It found that only about one in five of the workers wore respirators at the site.

* NEW YORK -- Teenagers who want to emulate New York's firefighters, lionized for their work on Sept. 11, 2001, can begin their training in public school as part of a new fire department-themed school. Students will form battalions, wear firefighter-like uniforms and learn fire safety and homeland security procedures at the High School for Fire and Safety. The school and 52 others with special courses also have the usual curriculum of mathematics and reading.

* GROVELAND, Calif. -- A member of an elite helicopter wildfire crew became the first female firefighter from the California Department of Forestry to die in the line of duty, officials said. Eva Schicke, 24, of Arnold was in a seven-member crew that apparently was overrun by flames Sunday in rugged terrain of the Stanislaus National Forest.

* MERCED, Calif. -- The deaths of dairy workers Enrique Araisa and Jose Alatorre, who were asphyxiated in 2001 by gases rising from a manure pit, could have been prevented if farmer Patrick Joseph Faria had given them the proper training and equipment, prosecutors said during opening statements in Faria's involuntary-manslaughter trial.

* St. LOUIS -- A small plane crashed on an island in the Missouri River after circling the runway at an airport nearby, killing all four people aboard, authorities said. The crash happened Sunday night on Howell Island as a group of four adults was flying from Sikeston, Mo., to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, about 25 miles west of St. Louis, officials said. Pilot Mark Kaplan and his wife, Phyllis Kaplan, both 56, of Chesterfield, were killed along with passengers Ralph Supinski, 57, and his wife, Carol Supinski, 58. Mark Kaplan received his pilot's license about three weeks ago, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

* CINCINNATI -- Alexandria Hall, 44, who kept a houseful of venomous and exotic pets, was bitten by a viper a week ago and died at a hospital Saturday, authorities said.

* SAN DIEGO -- The war in Iraq keeps Theresa Arnold thousands of miles away from the man of her dreams. But that did not stop the pair from exchanging vows in what is believed to be the first marriage by proxy in California. Clutching a cellular phone, the bride was married to Marine Lt. Thomas Cogan IV on Saturday at the San Diego County clerk's office. Cogan said his "I do" from the front lines of Iraq. Marriages by proxy were illegal in California until Friday, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law allowing military personnel stationed overseas in a war or conflict to marry through a legal stand-in. Texas, Montana and Colorado also allow marriage by proxy.

-- From News Services