Two construction workers who fell to their deaths at unrelated job sites in Manhattan have brought to light the need for better safety training. In one of the incidents, a third worker was seriously injured, as well.
The first incident was when 36-year-old Juan Chonillo, father of five, fell from a height of 29 stories at the 670-foot luxury condo tower where he was helping to raise the framework for pouring concrete on the 29th floor.
According to New York Daily News, Chonillo, an immigrant from Ecuador, was pronounced dead on the scene by FDNY officials.
Chonillo’s cousin, Angel Munoz, 46, was not on site at the time of the accident, but was familiar with Chonillo’s cautious work ethic.
“They were freeing the crane from the building. The cable got stuck somehow,” Munoz said. “He was trained and certified. I worked on three towers with him. He was always careful.”
When Munoz learned of his cousin’s death, he rushed to the job site. He noticed that Chonillo was wearing a harness, but it hadn’t been properly tethered.
“He was a very responsible worker,” Munoz emphasized. “He had been working in construction for more than 10 years.”
City building inspectors found that the crane in use at the time of the incident did not have an approved permit. The day before Chonillo’s death, a partial stop-work order was issued by the inspectors when they discovered the unsafe operations of the crane.
The building site already has nine construction-related code violations since January alone, accruing thousands of dollars in fines, including a penalty of $10,000 for utilizing a tower crane without a warning light system.
The second worker death occurred when two 45-year-old construction workers fell from a bucket lift elevated about 36 feet off the ground. One worker died on site. The other was rushed to Bellevue Hospital with head trauma, but was considered to be in stable condition.
Christopher Gamboa, 19, was working at a job site across the street when the accident happened.
“One of them hit face forward and the other person just fell on his side,” Gamboa said. “Once you saw the other guy fall you already knew he was dead, it was straight on, flat on his face.”
At the same site last June, Roger Vail, 62, was doing a survey on the 16th floor when he stepped through a wooden platform and fell to his death.
“What happened today further reinforces our point that safety is inclusive and accidents and deaths can happen to anyone,” said Brian Sampson, president of the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, in a statement.
Gary LaBarbera, the President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, expressed a call for better education in safety.
“Today’s tragic accident underscores the immediate need for comprehensive safety training for all construction workers throughout New York City,” said LaBarbera. “This is an epidemic that must end now.”