August 7, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The head of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York is hailing this week’s decision to indict two construction managers connected to the worksite death of a 22-year-old worker killed in a Ninth Avenue wall collapse last April.
Gary LaBarbera issued a statement mourning the loss of construction worker Carlos Moncayo, while expressing his hope that the deadly incident that took his life will lead to changes in the way New York City builds.
“We mourn the death of Carlos Moncayo and hope today's indictment will prevent future tragedies and send a message to others operating unsafe worksites,” LaBarbera said. “This tragedy underscores the need for safe, responsible construction practices across New York and we applaud the DA and DOI for the swift action taken today.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York City Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark G. Peters announced the indictments of Wilmer Cueva, 50, and Alfonso Prestia, 54, on August 5. The pair, along with their companies — Sky Materials Corp. and Harco Construction LLC — were formerly charged with recklessly causing Moncayo’s death by “failing to heed and address repeated warnings about unsafe work conditions at an active construction site.”
DA Vance called the incident that claimed Moncayo’s life “foreseeable and avoidable.”
“As detailed in court documents, repeated warnings about safety hazards at 9-19 Ninth Avenue were issued in the months, weeks, and even minutes before a trench collapsed, killing Mr. Moncayo,” the district attorney said in a statement. “Excavation work and trenching are some of the most dangerous jobs on a construction project, and it is during these critical moments that adherence to safety protocols and procedures is essential. In this case, the defendants are charged with recklessly disregarding their professional responsibility to protect workers, and we must do everything in our power to prevent similar incidents.”
Both the Occupational Safety & Health Administration [OSHA] and the New York City Building Code mandate that all worksite excavations deeper than five feet must be fortified against possible collapse.
“Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic,” said Kay Gee, director of OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office. “His death should not have happened. It reminds us that when employers neglect their legally required responsibility to safeguard their employees against on-the-job hazards, the tragic and irreversible result can be an incalculable loss to a worker’s family, friends and coworkers.”
Construction work is statistically more dangerous than both police and fire department occupations.
Last year, twelve people were killed in New York City construction-related incidents. Ten have already died this year.