NYC adds WTC dust victim to 9-11 death toll

The 9-11 death toll in New York City has just been officially raised from 2,749 to 2,750. From CBS, May 24:

A woman who died of lung disease five months after Sept. 11 was added on Wednesday to the medical examiner’s list of attack victims, marking the first time the city has officially linked a death to the toxic dust caused by the World Trade Center’s collapse.

Felicia Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old attorney who was caught in the dust cloud while fleeing the collapsing towers on Sept. 11, 2001, died of sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation and scarring in the lungs, on Feb. 10, 2002.

Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch, citing “accumulated scientific research” that concluded exposure to trade center dust can cause or contribute to sarcoidosis, said that “Mrs. Dunn-Jones’ exposure to World Trade Center dust on 9/11/01 contributed to her death and it has been ruled a homicide.”

“Mrs. Dunn-Jones has now been added to the list of people who died as a result of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers,” Hirsch wrote.

“It’ll be an honor,” her widower, Joe Jones, told CBS News. “We feel she always deserved to be on that list.”

“You’re almost without words,” he said.

The city said the Sept. 11 death toll at the trade center stands at 2,750.

A class action lawsuit has claimed dozens of deaths have been caused by exposure to toxic trade center dust. A New Jersey medical examiner last year ruled that the January 2006 death of a retired police detective, 34-year-old James Zadroga, was “directly related” to his work at ground zero on and after Sept. 11.

Dunn-Jones’ estate received a $2.6 million death benefit from a federal fund to compensate victims’ families.

New York lawmakers, some of whom urged the city to add Dunn-Jones to the death toll last year, said more should be added in the future.

“Sadly, we have known that Felicia is not alone and that others have died from ailments caused by 9/11,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “I hope that the medical examiner is no longer in denial about the trade center dust. Dr. Hirsch must review the cases of other 9/11 heroes who, like Felicia, died in the prime of their lives.”

Dunn-Jones’ family had asked last year that the medical examiner add her name to the death toll, but Hirsch wrote at the time that his office could not link her death to the exposure “with certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Meanwhile, 9-11 may not be finished claiming new victims. Several days after a 15-foot steel pipe plunged 35 stories off the 9-11-damaged Deutsche Bank building, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said May 21 it they will expand its probe into the building’s demolition. A stop work order has been in effect since the May 17 incident. Demolition of the 40-story building had been delayed until late last year because of potential environmental damage. In the last month, one worker has fallen down an elevator shaft at the site and two others have fallen off scaffolding. (WSJ, May 22; NY1, May 21

In related news, New York State and seven insurers reached a settlement over 9-11 claims, ending years of legal battles and securing more than $4.5 billion in funding to rebuild Ground Zero. About $2.55 billion has already been paid out by other insurance firms since the attacks. The remaining insurers agreed to pay $2 billion and drop various court battles. Larry Silverstein, who leased the twin towers weeks before they collapsed, took out a $3.5 billion policy on the trade center. He went to court after the attacks, arguing that he should receive two payouts because the two hijacked planes that crashed into the towers represented two attacks, not one. The developer was awarded $4.6 billion in 2004; two juries decided that some of the insurers had to pay twice because the companies’ different policies carried different wording about what would constitute multiple events.

The money represents about half of the funding needed to rebuild the site. Silverstein was originally responsible for rebuilding five office towers, but a year ago agreed to split the rebuilding and the insurance money with the Port Authority, which will build the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower. The Port Authority and Silverstein this year sued several insurers who refused to recognize the agreement. The new agreement ends all litigation. Under the agreement, the insurers will not disclose exactly how much each company will pay of the remaining $2 billion. (AP, May 23)

See our last posts on the battle for Ground Zero and the 9-11’s hidden victims.

See also our special feature on 9-11’s hidden victims.