Manslaughter Charges in New York Trench Collapse Death of 22-Year Old Worker

State prosecutors in New York City have filed manslaughter charges against two construction companies and their managers for the April death of a worker.

Carlos Moncayo, 22, killed in trench collapse in NYC

Carlos Moncayo, 22, killed in trench collapse in NYC

Wilmer Cueva, Alfonso Prestia and their companies Sky Materials and Harco Construction were charged with recklessly causing the death of Carlos Moncayo, a Sky employee.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance charged that the companies and managers “failed to heed and address repeated warnings about unsafe work conditions at an active construction site.”

Moncayo was killed when an unsecured trench in which he was working collapsed and fatally crushed him.

The defendants were charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the second degree.

“Carlos Moncayo’s death at a construction site was tragic, but it was also foreseeable and avoidable,” 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. 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. 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.”

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said that when the police responded to the scene of a deadly construction site in Chelsea to help victims, gather information, and evidence — “our detectives quickly learned was that this construction site was also a crime scene.”

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Manhattan office chief Kay Gee said “Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic.”

“His death should not have happened,” Gee said. “It reminds us that when employers neglect their legally required responsibility to safeguard their employees against on-the-job hazards, the tragic and irreversible result can be an incalculable loss to a worker’s family, friends and coworkers.”

Between December 2014 and March 2015, Sky, an excavation subcontractor, and Harco, a general contractor, managed and oversaw construction work at 9-19 Ninth Avenue between West 13th and Little West 12th Streets in the Meatpacking District.

During that period, Cueva, as Sky’s foreman, and Prestia, as Harco’s senior superintendent, were responsible for ensuring workers’ safety and observing basic safety precautions at the development site.

Under New York City Building Code and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) regulations, all excavations deeper than five feet must be fortified in order to protect workers from cave-ins before permanent support systems can be implemented.

Common methods of fortification include shoring, which prevents soil movement by bracing trench walls with hard barriers, and sloping, which lessens the gradient of trench walls, decreasing pressure and the chance of collapse.

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