Construction Workers Fatal 42 Story Fall Latest Problem for Bovis Lend Lease

A construction worker who was pouring concrete at Trump SoHo, a condominium hotel in SoHo, fell 42 floors to his death on the afternoon of January 14, 2008, when a wooden mold used to set the concrete collapsed.

Another worker was thrown from the 42nd floor, but was caught in a safety net that extends outward from the 40th floor, fire officials said. He was brought to safety in a construction bucket and hospitalized for injuries that the authorities said were not life threatening. Two other workers were treated for minor injuries.

The cause of the collapse was unclear. Officials said their initial analysis indicated that the project’s crane was not involved in the accident, but several people who said they witnessed the accident from the street described the crane as swaying dangerously and crashing into the side of the upper two floors.

Trump SoHo is a sleek gray tower that is to rise 45 stories at the northwest corner of Spring Street and Varick Street, near Avenue of the Americas, in Manhattan. The general contractor on the project, Bovis Lend Lease, is one of several companies whose records have been subpoenaed by Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, in connection with a wide-ranging criminal investigation of an August 18, 2007, fire at the former Deutsche Bank building near ground zero that left two firefighters dead.

Evidence indicated that the fire may have been caused by smoking by workers of subcontractor John Galt, which has since been replaced by LVI Environmental Services, a company famed for imploding old hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. Among the matters being reviewed is the question of who authorized the dismantling of a standpipe that was supposed to provide water to firefighters. Bovis was cited for four violations after Monday’s accident, including failure to safeguard the public and property.

The New York City Buildings Department said there had been 11 previous building code violations at the SoHo project, eight by Bovis and three by a subcontractor, DiFama Concrete Company of Brooklyn, that involved operating a crane in an unsafe manner, failing to provide a flagman during hoisting operations and failing to close the sidewalk when hoisting heavy loads, among other practices.

A department hearing is scheduled for January 24 on two of the previous citations, both issued to Bovis this past October 26. One charges that it failed to notify the city that its crane had bumped into a neighboring building, and the other charges that it operated a crane in an unsafe manner.

Last month, scaffolding broke causing a pair of brother window washers to plunge 47 stories(550 feet) on Manhattans upper East Side. Miraculously, one of the brothers survived the fall.

Alcides Moreno was given roughly 24 pints of blood and 19 pints of plasma and underwent an operation to open his abdomen in the emergency room because they did not want to risk moving him to an operating room. He endured nine orthopedic operations in December. The first time he spoke after the December 7 accident was on Christmas Day.

After the accident, another family member who is also a window washer, Jose Cumbicos, said they had mentioned their misgivings in a telephone call that morning. Mr. Cumbicos also said that the Morenos supervisor had reassured them, saying a mechanical problem with their rig had been taken care of.

The Labor Law of New York State provides special protection for workers who are exposed to and injured by elevation risks during construction and demolition of buildings (sections 240(1)) and 241(6)), and also explicitly for window washers (section 202 – “Protection of the public and of persons engaged at window cleaning and cleaning of exterior surfaces of buildings.”). Experienced personal injury lawyers can help construction workers who are injured on-the-job recover compensation to the fullest extent the law permits.

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