Indictments in Fatal New York City Crane Collapse and Deutsche Bank Fire

On January 5, 2009, the master rigger involved in the 200-ft-high tower crane that collapsed at a Midtown high-rise site March 15, 2008, killing six workers and a civilian, was indicted on multiple charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault and reckless endangerment.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau also said rigger William Rapetti and his firm Rapetti Rigging Services Inc., Massapequa Park, N.Y., failed to file tax returns for 2006 and 2007. The following day, another contractor official at the troubled Deutsche Bank asbestos-abatement and demolition site near Ground Zero was indicted in connection with a 2007 fire at the Deutsche Bank Building that trapped and killed two city firefighters.

According to the indictment, Rapetti had been supervising a rigging crew that was jumping the crane from the 18th floor at an apartment construction site on East 51st Street. The prosecution contends that instead of using eight protective slings to hoist a 6-ton piece of steel up the crane, Rapetti used four, one of which was defective and snapped while raising the crane during the process. This caused the collar to crash into lower-floor collars, breaking them, destabilizing the 22-story crane and causing it to collapse and crash into an adjacent residential high-rise. Six workers and a tourist were killed, and two dozen people were injured.

Rapetti surrendered to authorities and faces a total of up to 27 years in prison if convicted, said Morgenthau. Rapetti pleaded not guilty in state supreme court and was released on $75,000 bail. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year fined Rapetti $220,000, citing three willful violations, the most serious category of violations.

According to OSHA, Rapetti did not comply with the crane manufacturer’s specifications when erecting and raising the steel tower. He also failed to protect the rigging slings from damage or to inspect the slings for damage prior to use, and did not remove a defective sling from service.

The crane collapse of March 15 and another collapse that occurred on May 30, 2008, have had major repercussions. New York City enacted new regulations, mostly involving procedures for erecting, jumping and dismantling cranes. The rules called for safety meetings before operations could begin and for jump procedures to be spelled out by an engineer. The city also beefed up its inspections of cranes.

On June 6, 2008, James Delayo, the Buildings Department chief inspector for hoist and rigging in charge of overseeing the issuance of city licenses for crane operators, was arrested on corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes to allow cranes under his review to pass inspection, for taking money from a crane company that sought to ensure that its employees would pass the required licensing exam, and for selling copies of the crane operator test.

On October 6, 2008, the New York City Buildings Department announced that it was overhauling its procedures on how the city issues licenses to some crane operators. The fatal fire in the Deutsche Bank Building at ground zero that occurred in August 2007 was started by a carelessly tossed cigarette from one of the crew decontaminating the 41-story tower, investigators have said. They said firefighters were unable to escape the inferno because city inspectors never noted that construction crews had cut and dismantled a 42-foot section of the standpipe, which was designed to provide water in case of a fire. Firefighters also found that their primary means of escape, the staircases, had been improperly sealed, according to the investigation.

Last month, three site managers and demolition subcontractor The John Galt Corp. were indicted for safety violations at the Deutsche Bank but pleaded not guilty. The indictment charges that in the fall of 2006, Mr. Alvo, an executive of Galt, and Mr. De Paola, a Galt foreman, directed workers in the basement of the tower to cut a 42-foot section of standpipe into pieces and haul it away after half of the pipe had fallen to the ground, leaving a second section hanging precariously overhead.

Indicted this past week on multiple grand-larceny charges is Robert Chiarappa, 45, Galt’s purchasing agent. Prosecutors say Chiarappa stole $1.2 million from the state and Arch Insurance Group, the firms surety, by approving false and inflated invoices from site vendors in exchange for cash, gifts and construction supplies for personal use. He pleaded not guilty and posted $100,000 bail.

The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims, including for workers injured at construction sites. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clientsContact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. To learn more, watch our videos.

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