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Apr 12, 2006 7:46 am US/Eastern  

Zadroga 9/11 Ruling Likely To Help Other Rescuers

Detective Found To Have Died As A Result Of Terror Attacks

By Wendy Gillette NEW YORK (CBS) ? For the first time, a medical examiner has ruled that the death of a responder to Ground Zero was directly related to the 9/11 attacks. 

New York City police detective James Zadroga was laid to rest in January. For months, his family and the detectives union have insisted the cause of the 34-year-old's death was the nearly 500 hours he put in at Ground Zero, breathing in dangerous, toxic dust. But they didn't have conclusive proof, until now. 

The Detectives Endowment Association presented autopsy results released by the Ocean County Medical Examiner's Office at union headquarters on Tuesday afternoon. The final findings said Zadroga died of respiratory failure, with this conclusion: "It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident." 

Click here to see's 9/11 Special Report

The union said this is the first time a medical examiner has ruled that 9/11 is the cause of death for a Ground Zero emergency responder, going a step further than rulings of respiratory failure for other responders who died, including EMTs. 

"In my opinion, Det. Zadroga is the 24th member of the NYPD to die as a result of the World Trade Center attack," said Michael Palladino of the Detectives Endowment Association. "The difference being, the original 23 passed on Sept. 11."

Now, the detectives union wants Zadroga's pension changed to death in the line of duty. His remaining pension is going to his orphaned daughter, Tyler Ann, whose mother also died. A change in pension status would allow her to collect money at least an additional seven years.

"I really, really would hope that we get something for James' family, his little daughter here," said Zadroga's father, Joseph. "It's not for me, it's for his little daughter. Something for her and these other families out here because they need the help."

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)