Woman killed by plywood that flew off Queens building

FLUSHING, Queens (WABC) -- A 67-year-old woman was killed when a piece of plywood flew off a building in Queens Thursday morning.

It happened on Main Street in Flushing just before 10 a.m.

The victim was taken to New York Hospital Queens in critical condition and was rushed into surgery, but officials say she succumbed to her injuries.

"Heartbreaking news out of Queens," Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter. "NYCBuildings is investigating this site top-to-bottom to determine whether proper protocols were followed. Please keep the family and loved ones of this woman in your thoughts today."

The victim was identified as Xiang Ji, of Westbury.

"My heart goes out to the family and friends of the woman who was struck by falling debris today in Flushing," City Councilman Peter Koo said. "Such a horrific tragedy should never happen to anyone who is simply walking down the sidewalk, and it is a clear example of why building owners and city agencies need to ensure building facades are safe, especially during periods of high winds. Currently, a Stop Work Order exists on the property due to several outstanding violations, and I have called for the city to shut down the building until there is a greater understanding of this building's safety and scaffolding is in place."

The sidewalk is now taped off, and crews were working to secure any potentially dangerous debris on the building.

"Our preliminary investigation found that an aluminum covered plywood panel at the front of the building collapsed to the sidewalk below, tragically striking a pedestrian," the Department of Buildings said in a statement. "We have issued a violation to the property owner for failure to properly maintain the building, and have ordered the immediate installation of a sidewalk shed at the location in the interest of public safety. Investigations into this incident, by DOB and our partners in law enforcement, are ongoing, and additional enforcement actions may be issued at the conclusion of these investigations."

Officials said there were 18 open violations at the property, mostly for issues related to illegal work without a permit inside of the building, unpermitted business signs, and for illegal occupancy.

None of the violations were related to the facade of the building.

The FDNY is advising residents to expect traffic delays, road closures, and a heavy presence of emergency personnel in the area and are urged to consider alternate routes or allow for additional travel time.

Falling debris was also reported on 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, prompting police to close the roadway in both directions. No injuries were reported, and the road has since reopened.

"Contractors are responsible for taking extra precautions to secure their sites during high winds. We have ordered all work on the exterior of the building to stop until the contractor has proven the site is safe," the DOB said in a statement.

The Department of Buildings is advising property owners, contractors and crane operators to take precautionary measures due to high winds that will be gusting up to 45 miles per hour throughout the day.

Property owners must consider the safety of their buildings and construction sites, including cranes, suspended and supported scaffolding, hoists, and any other building appurtenances that may come loose from exposure to high winds.

Structures that have been subject to deferred maintenance or are in delicate condition could be at greater risk, and the department suggests consulting a professional to advise how to secure construction sites and buildings.

To safeguard construction sites, builders, contractors, and developers should take all precautionary measures including but not limited to the following:

--Tie down and secure material and loose debris at construction sites.
--Cover electrical equipment from exposure to the weather.
--Store loose tools, oil cans, and extra fuses in a tool box.
--Secure netting, scaffolding, and sidewalk sheds.
--Suspend crane operations and secure crane equipment when wind speeds reach 30 mph or greater.
--Suspend hoist operations and secure exterior hoists when wind speeds reach 35 mph or greater, unless manufacturer specifications state otherwise.
--Brace and secure construction fences.
--Call 911 if there is an emergency on a construction site.

To secure a building, property owners should take all precautionary measures including but not limited to the following:

--Bring inside loose, lightweight objects such as lawn furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, garden tools, and toys.
--Anchor objects that would be unsafe outside, such as gas grills or propane tanks.
--Close up and secure patio umbrellas.
--Secure retractable awnings.
--Remove aerial antennas and satellite television dishes.

New Yorkers are encouraged to call 311 to report non-compliant conditions or 911 to report emergencies at construction sites or buildings. New Yorkers who suspect a building or property has been structurally compromised should call 911.

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