April 23, 2002 --

Seven firefighters lost in the World Trade Center were among those officially declared dead by a court yesterday.

Among those on the list was Ray Downey, chief of special-operations command and, at age 63, the city's most decorated firefighter.

Downey was an expert on urban search-and-rescue. His family and the department held a memorial for him on Dec. 15.

The State Supreme Court of Manhattan has issued 1,721 death certificates for 9/11 terror-attack victims whose remains have not been recovered.

Some families have not applied for death certificates, which are needed to obtain life insurance, process wills and access bank accounts.

Also declared dead by the court yesterday was firefighter Vincent Brunton, 43. His wife, Cathy, said the decision to finally apply for a certificate was difficult.

"The only reason why I decided to do it is because you need them to get paperwork straightened out," said Brunton, who is still waiting for her husband's remains to be found at Ground Zero, where cleanup work is expected to finish next month.

Patrick Byrne, 39, Thomas J. Farino, 37, Robert Hamilton, 43, Edward J. Rall, 44, and Michael Otten, 42, were the other firefighter names released by the court yesterday.