New York State prosecutors have filed manslaughter charges against two construction companies and their managers for the trench cave-in death of a worker killed in April when an unsecured trench he was working in collapsed and crushed him.
The worker, Carlos Moncayo, 22, was an Ecuadorean immigrant living in Queens. He was employed by Sky Materials, one of the construction companies charged in his death. Also charged are Wilmer Cueva, a Sky Materials manager; Harco Construction, and Harco manager Alfonso Prestia.
Prosecutors on Wednesday said that Mr. Cueva and Mr. Prestia had repeatedly ignored warnings of perilous conditions that threatened to harm workers at the Ninth Avenue worksite.
“Carlos Moncayo’s death at a construction site was tragic, but it was also foreseeable and avoidable,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. “Repeated warnings about safety hazards at the construction site were issued in the months, weeks, and even minutes before a trench collapsed, killing Mr. Moncayo.”
Mr. Vance emphasized how important it is for construction companies to comply with safety rules, especially amid a building boom in the city that has seen new permits and construction projects grow by 156 percent in the last year.
“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,” Mr. Vance said. “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.”
Prosecutors said that Mr. Cueva and Mr. Prestia were directly responsible for ensuring the on-site safety of their workers at the development project in New York City’s Meatpacking District.
Federal and State safety rules require construction companies to fortify the walls of construction trenches deeper than five feet by shoring them with braces and barriers, or sloping, which eases the gradient and pressure of trench walls. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) frequently features the dangers of excavation and trenching work because dozens of workers are injured or killed every year in easily preventable collapses and cave-ins.
A safety inspector warned both managers on the day of the deadly collapse about an unprotected trench that was seven feet deep. Neither of the managers took immediate action. The trench was 13 feet deep later in the day when the trench gave way and killed Mr. Moncayo.