Black Sunday Suspects Acquitted 4 Years After Tragedy

Tenants found not guilty on all charges

Two tenants accused in the deaths of two firefighters who couldn't escape an apartment fire were acquitted of all charges Friday.

Rafael Castillo and Caridad Coste had put up illegal partitions in their apartment at 234 E. 178th St. in the Bronx that prosecutors said blocked a fire escape.

Firefighters Curtis Meyran and John Bellew were trapped and jumped from a fourth-floor window while battling the 2005 blaze. Both died from their injuries in what became known as the "Black Sunday" case.

Defense attorneys had argued that it was a "chaotic response" by the fire department -- combined with frozen fire hydrants and broken water hoses -- that led to the deaths.

Sobs were heard from a cluster of firefighters in the court room as the verdicts were read aloud.

The verdict was announced in Bronx Supreme Court just before 1 p.m. Jurors finished their deliberations late Wednesday, but the judge ordered the verdict sealed until Friday afternoon. Justice Margaret Clancy was concerned about potential impact of an earlier announcement on a separate jury sitting in the same trial.

That jury continues to deliberate charges against two other defendants, landlord Cesar Rios and the corporation that owns the building.

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