Manhattan DA Files Criminal Charges in Crane Accident (2)

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By John Herzfeld

A pair of managers face criminal charges of reckless endangerment and assault for their alleged roles in a June crane accident that seriously injured two workers at a New York City construction site.

The case was part of a push by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and other New York law enforcement authorities to step up criminal penalties for safety lapses, wage violations, and other fraud in the construction industry.

Timothy Braico, a senior branch manager for St. Louis-based Western Specialty Contractors, and Terrence Edwards, a site superintendent for the company, ignored city Buildings Department crane regulations in the accident, Vance said in announcing the charges Nov. 8. Braico and Edwards pleaded not guilty in a state Supreme Court appearance later in the day.

Western, a union contractor, cooperated in the probe by the DA’s Construction Industry Fraud Task Force, a city-state law enforcement partnership. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to hire an independent safety monitor, step up safety training, and fund public service announcements, Vance said.

The company was hired as a subcontractor to install the facade of an 11-story luxury mixed-use building project in East Harlem. Braico allegedly ordered a Jekko mini-crane for the project, even though no workers there had been trained to operate it and no required crane safety plan had been submitted to the city for approval.

Crane Fell Four Stories

Edwards allegedly directed an ironworker to use the mini-crane to hoist glass panels up from another floor without making sure he knew its load capacity or telling him to tether it, as required by city rules. The crane lurched forward and capsized before falling four stories to the ground, prosecutors said.

As the crane fell, they said, its boom hit two ironworkers assigned by Edwards to assist on the floor below.

One of them, Christopher Jackson, sustained a traumatic head injury that has affected his ability to speak and walk. The other, Jorge Delgado, got severe spinal injuries impairing his ability to walk and move.

The defendants knowingly skirted July 2017 city rules tightening requirements for mini-cranes, prosecutors charged. The rules require employers to train workers for the specific make and model of the crane they operate and submit safety plans that include the tethering requirement.

Prosecutor Issues Warning

Vance issued a warning in response to the growing use of the remotely operated, lightweight mini-cranes, saying in a statement that “contractors must ensure their workers are trained and their plans are DOB-approved, and always make sure these dangerous pieces of equipment are securely tethered.”

He added, “Those who fail to follow building regulations and recklessly kill or maim their workers will be criminally prosecuted.”

City Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler said the incident had involved “one of the most appalling safety lapses in recent memory.”

Western Specialty Contractors, in a statement, said that it has cooperated with the investigation from the outset “and will continue to cooperate going forward.”

Attorneys for the defendants couldn’t be immediately identified.

The case is People v. Braico, N.Y. Sup. Ct., indictment 11/8/18.

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