Crane co. owner indicted in deadly collapse

A large crane lies in this intersection on the Upper East Side after it collapsed in this Friday, May 30, 2008 file photo taken in New York. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh, File)

March 8, 2010 3:39:48 PM PST
It has taken nearly two years to bring criminal charges in this fatal crane collapse. Both the company's owner and former mechanic have been arrested.

After being arraigned on manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment charges, James Lomma ducked his head and declined any comment.

The deadly crane collapse on the Upper East Side two years ago took the lives of the crane's operator and another worker.

"Failing to keep the crane operational would have cost the defendants about $50,000 a month in rental fees, a price the defendants must have felt was too much to pay," he said. "Today, two families are paying a much greater price."

Prosecutors claim the failure of a structural weld in the crane's turn-table led to its collapse, sending 30-tons of steel plunging two hundred feet to the street below.

New York Crane's former mechanic Tibor Varganyi, prosecutors say, was in charge of having the turntable repaired.

"Through a series of reckless and intentional decisions, he replaced the broken turntable with a piece from a Chinese company that was not properly vetted," Vance said,

An attorney for New York Crane said the company "...purchased a bearing from a reputable company in china and had it thoroughly inspected before it was put into use."

The company added to those who signed off on the new bearing was the buildings department itself. "This is a case that should not have been brought," the company said.

A Buildings Department crane inspector was also suspended for neglect of duty in the incident.

"Since the collapse, the Department of Buildings has augmented its protocols and inspection procedures," Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the Department of Investigation, said.

Donald Leo, the 30-year-old crane operator, was just weeks away from being married before he rode that massive crane to his death.

His family said their son "...was killed for one reason and one reason only: greed."

"The defendants were deceitful and not candid with the departments and ultimately what we see is the product of the deceit is the tragic loss of two lives," Vance said.

Lomma was given a week to pay $100,000 cash bail and was released. Varganyi was released without bail. Their next court appearance was scheduled for April 6.