Company, manager charged with manslaughter in NYC construction worker's death

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Company charged with manslaughter in construction worker's death
A construction company and its management are charged in the fatal August 2019 partial collapse at a Bronx construction site that killed a worker.

BRONX (WABC) -- A construction company and its management were charged in the fatal partial collapse at a Bronx construction site that killed a worker.

The Bronx District Attorney's office said it uncovered multiple layers of fraud used to get the permits to build at 94 East 208th Street. Between that and the negligence in violating construction regulations, the DA says what happened in 2019 was no accident.

Tons of cinderblocks collapsed like a slide onto a roof that wasn't able to hold the weight at the construction site where a four-story apartment building was being raised on a former parking lot.

"All we heard was like a big sound go boom, and we ran out when we came the building had collapsed, and everyone came out, and they were like somebody's in there," said Tracey Burke who works nearby.

Construction worker Carlos Huertas, 46, was crushed to death and at least four others were injured in the collapse.

Four years later, Huertas's wife and five children were present when Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced charges against three contractors in charge of the building site.

Augustine Adesanmi Akhlak Choudhary, Abazi Okoro are Fatos Mustafaj are facing a long list of criminal charges with three out of four being charged with criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter in Huerta's death.

"The horrendous death of Segundo Manuel Huerta Mayancela-buried under cinderblocks and metal sheets--was entirely preventable," Clark said. "The construction site at 94 East 208th St. was a deathtrap waiting to happen."

The contractors allegedly disregarded building safety codes and worker protections and also filed false documents to obtain a building permit, according to the DA's office.

In one instance one of the contractors, a former employee of the NYC Department of Design and Construction, was paid $3,000 to use his credentials, but allegedly never visited the site according to the DA's release.

"The City's buildings codes are written to support and advance safety on construction sites," NYC Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said. "As charged, these defendants failed to follow the law and to carry out their most basic responsibilities, including to show up in person to ensure safety standards were being met."

The company allegedly hired non-union labor to build, with no supervision.

According to the investigation on the day of the incident, workers were bringing cinder blocks and bricks from the second floor onto a work platform on the third floor.

That platform was not assembled correctly to handle the weight of the building materials and buckled causing the workers on the platform, bricks and the platform itself to fall onto the construction works on the second floor.

Huertas's death led to lawmakers passing Carlos' Law, which creates greater accountability for avoidable injuries to construction workers in New York.

The new law increases the penalties for criminal corporate liability with a fine of up to $500,000.

"An unqualified company allegedly used fraudulent credentials, ignored oversight requirements and building code, and built a dangerously unstable structure," Clark said. "Workers are not expendable."

Four men who either owned or worked for construction companies are facing criminal charges... In the first criminal case ever in a construction fatality in the Bronx.

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