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Brooklyn Criminal Court hosts recognition ceremony for heroes of courthouse fire

June 8, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Court Officer Darien Wagner was one of 10 people recognized on Wednesday for his efforts in keeping the court staff of the Criminal Court and the citizens of Brooklyn safe during a fire at the court last month. Pictured from left: Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, C.O. Darien Wagner, Lt. Robert Olinsky, Hon. Michael Yavinsky, Hon. Lawrence Marks and Hon. Melissa Jackson. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Eight court officers and a pair of court clerks were honored on Wednesday during a recognition ceremony at the courthouse for their heroics during a fire at the Brooklyn Criminal Court last month. 

“We are so thankful to have everyone here to join us in honoring the heroism that was on full display during the afternoon of May 10, when we had an unfortunate fire here on our sixth floor,” said Supervising Judge Michael Yavinsky. “It was a real fire and it was scary, but our personnel sprang into action to make sure that everyone was kept safe.

“A big part of how and why we can do what we do is the fact that day in and day out, our court family and local court users can reliably come into this building and conduct their business without a second thought to their safety because of the unsung heroes that keep us safe every single day,” Yavinsky continued.

Wednesday’s honorees included First Deputy Chief Clerk Antonio Diaz, Borough Chief Clerk Kenneth Fay and court officers Sgt. John Harte, Sgt. Joseph Scafidi, Thomas Cirola, Darien Wagner, Anthony Morgan, Shaqwan Gardner, Thomas Hickey and Edward Rossiello.

It took 60 firefighters nearly two hours to put out the blaze, but it was these 10 court employees who were integral in evacuating people safely out of the sixth-floor area and the building. As a result, seven of the 10 had to be sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation and two were treated by EMTs on the scene. All were able to attend Wednesday’s ceremony.

As a result of the quick actions of the 10 honorees, the court was able to reopen that same night and was back to full operations, aside from the sixth floor, which remained closed, by the next day.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, as well as Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks; Hon. Melissa C. Jackson, supervising judge of the NYC Criminal Court; Chief Michael Magliano; and Chief Clerk Justin Barry were all on hand for the ceremony. 

“These 10 individuals risked their lives to help the public and their colleagues to escape the burning courthouse,” said Jackson. “Nobody ordered them to do it. Nobody told them they had to risk their lives. They just did it.”

“It is with great pride that we honor the people who rushed to the scene and assisted in the prompt evacuation of this court,” said Marks. “The fire was so intense that it blew out several windows and sent flames and smoke billowing. Because of the decisive actions of these 10 court employees, everyone was removed from the building.” 

After a few brief speeches, all of the 10 men were announced and DiFiore presented them with citations on behalf of the NYS Unified Court System.


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