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'Black Sunday' firefighter to be honored

FDNY Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo, of FDNY Rescue Company

FDNY Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo, of FDNY Rescue Company 3, who was seriously injured in a three-alarm fire on East 178th St. on Jan. 23, 2005. Credit: Matthew P. Daly

A disabled New York City firefighter from Long Island, who was critically injured in the 2005 Bronx "Black Sunday" apartment building fire, is to have his name included on the FDNY Wall of Heroes, the city's fire commissioner said Monday.

Joseph DiBernardo Jr., 40, of Miller Place, died last November of an apparent accidental medication overdose from the painkilling drugs that were a part of his life dating back to his career-ending injuries on Jan. 23, 2005, officials said.

DiBernardo Jr. and five other firefighters were searching for people they thought might be trapped in a burning four-story building when they themselves became trapped. The six men desperately jumped or fell trying to escape the flames, and four survived.

"I reviewed Lieutenant DiBernardo's extensive medical history, including his post-retirement medical records provided by his family," Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said in a news release. "I find a compelling case to include Joseph's name on our Wall of Honor and to approve a line-of-duty plaque for his firehouse, Rescue 3."

"It was important to us that our son got that recognition," Joseph DiBernardo Sr. said. "The fire killed him. It just took 6 years to kill him. . . . It brings closure to his fire department career."

Cassano said a ceremony unveiling DiBernardo's plaque will be held at Rescue 3 in the Bronx on the anniversary of his death, Nov. 22.

At DiBernardo's funeral, his father, a retired firefighter himself, said that from childhood his son went with him to the firehouse and played with toy fire engines.

After his fall, DiBernardo had multiple surgical procedures including the placement of five metal plates in one foot, four in the other and a total of 60 metal screws in his body.

A limited liability company named 234 East 178th Street, and the manager of the building, Cesar Rios, were convicted of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in 2009 in connection with the fire.

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