Magazine calls WTC probe a farce

Magazine calls WTC probe a farce

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

A firefighting trade magazine with links to the New York City Fire Department is calling for a thorough and “fully resourced” investigation of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

A signed editorial by Bill Manning, editor of the 125-year-old monthly magazine, labels the current investigation “a half-baked farce.” Manning also said the steel from the site should be preserved so investigators can examine the evidence to determine what caused the collapse.

Previous reports in New York papers have stated the steel and other rubble has been rapidly hauled to landfills, and some has found its way into the hands of organized crime, where it has been sold for profit. “The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately,” Manning wrote.

The publication, Fire Engineering, had counted Deputy Chief Raymond Downey, chief structural expert of the NYFD, among its senior advisers. Downey died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Prof. Glenn Corbett of John Jay College serves as fire engineering expert for the magazine.

The Daily News article reported that a group of engineers from the American Society of Civil Engineers, backed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been studying some aspects of the towers’ collapse.

Manning and others say the investigation has failed to look at all parts of the disaster and has had only limited access to documents and other evidence. More and more fire protection engineers, Manning wrote, have theorized that “the structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not enough to bring down the towers.”

John Czwartacki, a spokesman for FEMA, said the agency hadn’t seen the editorial and could offer no comment. Norida Torriente, speaking for the ASCE, said the group’s study was a beginning and “not a definitive work.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, joined a group of firefighters’ survivors to call for a blue-ribbon panel to probe the collapse of the towers. “The World Trade Center was not the only lightweight, core construction high-rise in the U.S. It’s a typical method of construction,” Manning told the Daily News.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s office declined to comment on who decided to recycle the steel from the towers. The newspaper said some members of the investigative team, which includes some of the most respected engineers in the country, complained they had been shackled with bureaucratic restrictions preventing them from interviewing witnesses, examing the WTC site and asking for crucial information, such as recorded distress calls to police and fire departments.

Team members told the New York Times they have been threatened with dismissal for talking to the press. “FEMA is controlling everything,” one team member said.

Frederick Mower, an associate professor in the Fire Protection Engineering Department at the University of Maryland, said the decisions could eventually compromise any probe of the collapses. “I find the speed with which potentially important evidence has been removed and recycled to be appalling,” he said.

“This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on this,” said one team member, “and our hands are tied.”

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