Higher 9/11 Death Toll Raises Questions

Updated: 05-25-2007 10:37:02 AM

Associated Press Writer


Family members of ground zero workers who died after breathing in toxic dust from the collapsed World Trade Center say they want their relatives officially recognized as victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The official list of victims grew by one this week after the city agreed to include a New York attorney who died of lung disease months after the attack, confusing Sept. 11 family members about what distinguished this death from the scores of others attributed to the aftermath.

The city medical examiner's office said Thursday that Felicia Dunn-Jones' death was the only Sept. 11-related fatality it has been asked to review and definitively link to the twin towers' collapse. In the future, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said, the medical examiner will review any case if a family makes such a request.

"We certainly never turn anybody down," she said.

That raises the prospect of an ever-increasing death toll nearly six years after the attacks. The count now stands at 2,750 after the inclusion of Dunn-Jones. It's up to Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch to decide whether to reclassify any deaths.

"It's his definition that we will follow in this city," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A police union leader said first responders who became ill and died after working at ground zero should also be added to the city's official victim list.

"First responders who expired as a result of their 9/11-related injuries should in fact be given that same honor," said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

Those responders would include 34-year-old James Zadroga, a police detective who became sick and died of respiratory disease after working hundreds of hours in the ground zero cleanup. A New Jersey medical examiner has ruled his 2006 death was "directly related" to his work at ground zero and exposure to trade center dust.

Zadroga's father said he wanted the city to review his son's case.

"I'm going to go through the process, definitely," Zadroga said. "All these guys were heroes there. They're all dying."

David Reeve, whose wife, Deborah, died last year of an asbestos-related cancer after working for months around ground zero and at the morgue, said he would like her to be recognized as an attack victim.

Attorneys wondered whether the official listing of Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old civil rights attorney who fled the collapsing towers from her office a block away, would make a difference in lawsuits accusing the city of negligence for failing to protect workers and residents from toxic air at the site.

"I have clients who are starting to call saying, should we dig up the bodies and have autopsies and have tissue samples," said David Worby, who represents 10,000 plaintiffs in a negligence lawsuit against the city. He said at least five of his clients recently died of sarcoidosis, the same disease that killed Dunn-Jones.

Bloomberg said that Dunn-Jones' case is different from those of workers who toiled for months at the site.

"This one case ... the woman was killed as a result of being there at the time of the attack," he said. "Think of it as though somebody had gotten - had a beam fall on them and it just took a little while for them to succumb to their injury. Not somebody who was injured the next day if a beam fell on them during the cleanup. That's a very different situation."


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