NYC Contractor Convicted of Homicide in Worker Death

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By John Herzfeld

June 10 — A New York City construction company has been convicted of homicide in the April 2015 death of a worker in a trench collapse at a Manhattan excavation site, prosecutors announced June 10 ( People v. Harco Constr. Co., N.Y. Sup. Ct., No. 01971-2015, 6/10/16).

In a bench trial before Justice Kirke Bartley of the state Supreme Court for New York County, Harco Construction LLC was convicted on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment charges for failing to address unsafe working conditions that allegedly led to the collapse.

The company, also known as H&H Builders Inc., was among four defendants charged in the case, which is one of series of criminal prosecutions pursued in the city for workplace deaths.

The defendants were accused of failing to heed repeated warnings over several months from a safety consultant about conditions at the site where a laborer, Carlos Moncayo, was crushed to death, including the morning of the collapse.

Other Charges Pending

Charges remain pending against the other defendants, prosecutors said. Sentencing for Harco was set for July 13.

In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said: “Today’s guilty verdict should signal to the construction industry that managing a project from afar does not insulate a corporation or general contractor from criminal liability.”

He said Moncayo’s family had “endured days of grueling testimony about the horrific death of a loved one buried alive in an unsecured trench more than 13 feet deep.” The worker’s mother came from Ecuador for the trial at “great personal sacrifice,” he said, adding: “It is my sincere hope that today’s conviction inspires significant change in the construction industry, prompted by the kind of tragedy that can and must be prevented as New York experiences historic growth and expansion.”

Harco's defense attorney didn't respond June 10 to a request for comment.

In October 2015, Harco was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for willful and serious safety violations carrying $280,000 in proposed penalties.

The announcement of the conviction came in the same week as the homicide indictment of another New York City construction contractor for his role in the April 2015 death of a worker who fell six stories from an unguarded building site ledge.

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