Jan. 5, 2009 -- It was Sunday, January 23, 2005 and on this Monday almost four years later, prosecutors played the tape of transmissions among firefighters battling a blaze in the Mount Hope section.
Desperate calls for help could be heard as six firefighters fought to survive, trapped inside a burning building in the Bronx.
Fire lieutenant Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellew were killed going out the fourth floor window. Four other firefighters jumped and lived.
On Monday, prosecutors began their case against two of the building's tenants and the landlord.
All are charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
Firefighters and families of the victims packed into the Bronx courtroom to hear opening arguments.
Caridad Coste and Rafael Castillo were the tenants in the building on 178th street.
Prosecutors said they put up illegal walls in the two apartments so they could rent out the extra space. Investigators later determined overloaded extension cords snaking through Castillo's apartment caused the fire. Changes in the apartment Coste rented out upstairs trapped the firefighters who had to jump.
Prosecutors said "Meyran and Billew paid for Caridad Coste's wall with their lives."
They also said the landlord Caesar Rios knew of the conditions and should have fixed them.
Rios' lawyer said he did, but the tenants put them back up.
All the defense lawyers insisted there were other factors that led to the deaths -- communications problems and blizzard conditions that day.
They said water didn't reach the building until a half hour after the fire started.
They also said the FDNY would not let firefighters carry escape ropes and harnesses that might have saved two of them.
"There were no ropes. The firemen had ropes in the year 2000. They were removed. Prohibited from carrying ropes and in a week they were allowed to go back to using ropes. More than that what else do you need?" said Francisco Knipping, Coste's attorney.
It was an argument that the widow of Lieutenant Meyran found upsetting.
"They're blaming them. It's their own fault. It's disgusting," said Meyran.
Testimony resumes on Tuesday.
Republished with permission from NY1.com