The foreman of an excavation subcontractor and the senior superintendent of a construction contractor have been indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney and the Department of Investigation for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment following the death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo on a construction site in the Meatpacking District of New York City earlier this year. Both parties allegedly ignored warnings about unsafe working conditions at 9-19 Ninth Avenue, the site where Mr. Moncayo was crushed to death after falling into an unsecured trench and becoming buried in soil.
According to reports, the foreman was told to remove his workers from the trench after inspectors discovered it lacking safety measures. The foreman, Wilmer Cueva, allegedly refused to remove his workers on the morning of the incident, less than 90 minutes prior to the collapse that resulted in a construction worker’s death. Furthermore, it is alleged that both Cueva and the superintendent, Alfonso Prestia of Harco Construction LLC, ignored multiple warnings, both in-person and via email and took no measures to safeguard the trenches at the worksite. It was described by the District Attorney as a “constant drumbeat of warnings”
“Carlos Moncayo’s death at a construction site was tragic, but it was also foreseeable and avoidable,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance told the Gothamist. “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.”
Following Mr. Moncayo’s death in April, it was reported that a stop order had been issued to the site to investigate the lack of support beams and fortifications in the spot where Mr. Moncayo became trapped. The New York City Building Code as well as the federal Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines set clear rules about excavations deeper than five feet, as well as any trench dug at a sloping or shallow angle. These regulations are put into place specifically to protect workers from cave-ins. Neither of these measures were taken at the job site where Mr. Moncayo died.
This particular incident has prompted a direct response from the Department of Buildings (DOB), in which unsafe worksite conditions are encouraged to be reported directly to the DOB rather than the contractor in question. It has also inspired an announcement by District Attorney Cyrus Vance and DOI Commissioner Mark Peters, promising a thorough investigation into construction misconduct in New York City.
“Why didn’t we do it this way five years ago?” Peters commented. “Honestly, we should have.”
Construction fatalities are a tragic risk of a highly dangerous field of work. The Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff has spent over 20 years representing the victims and families of victims of construction accidents, fighting tirelessly to ensure they are given the compensation they are owed. If you or a family member has been involved in a construction accident, call our offices for a free consultation about your rights. We are available 24-hours a day at (212) 962-1020.
If you suspect a worksite is unsafe, please report it to the Department of Buildings by dialing 3-1-1.