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Inwood firefighter's family files wrongful-death lawsuit

Jacqueline Scott-Sanford, the widow of 43-year-old volunteer firefighter

Jacqueline Scott-Sanford, the widow of 43-year-old volunteer firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr., who died from injuries sustained fighting a house fire in December 2014, speaks at the Inwood Fire Department Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The wife of a firefighter who died battling a Woodmere house fire has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the homeowners and contractors renovating the property.

The suit accuses the owners and contractors of negligence, and violating building and fire codes and statutes, contributing to the Dec. 19 blaze that killed Joseph Sanford Jr. of Inwood.

At the time of the fire, the suit says, painting contractor E.M. Expert Corp. of Hempstead was storing "painting materials and supplies, including flammable materials and liquids" in the Central Avenue house.

Also named as defendants are the owners, David and Wendy Friend, and the general contractor, Paramount Construction Corp. of Lynbrook.

Sanford's widow, Jacqueline Scott-Sanford, filed the suit seeking unspecified damages on Feb. 25 in Nassau County State Supreme Court.

Sanford, 43, died from his injuries four days after firefighters found him in the charred home's basement. It wasn't clear whether Sanford fell through the first floor or was in the basement and struck by falling debris, fire officials said.

An official cause of the blaze still hasn't been released.

Garden City attorney Christopher McGrath, who represents the Sanford family, said he intends to question "the owner, general contractor ... and anyone who had anything to do with the fire. I promised this family that I will uncover the truth of what happened here, and I will do that."

McGrath declined to provide more specifics about the alleged building and fire code violations.

David Friend, a senior vice president at CBS News in Manhattan, declined to comment when reached Thursday.

A spokesman for Paramount Construction denied the allegations, calling the fire "a total tragedy on all sides."

"We weren't negligent in any way," the spokesman said. "The fire had nothing to do with us or any work that we did."

The owner of E.M. Expert could not be reached.

More than 200 firefighters responded to the early morning blaze at the unoccupied home. The fire started in the basement and quickly spread to the roof, authorities said.

Sanford, a Nassau public works department employee, was a 17-year Inwood firefighter and former assistant chief.

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