A New York City general contractor was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in the trench-collapse death of a worker last year.
News sources say that Harco Construction, owned by Keith Hart, was also found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo, who was employed by excavation subcontractor Sky Materials.
Moncayo was buried alive on April 6, 2015 when an unshored 14-foot deep trench caved in. Prosecutors successfully argued that Harco and Sky were reckless because they ignored warnings from inspectors. Harco had contended that, as a general contractor, it couldn’t control a subcontractor’s work and that Sky Materials was responsible for Moncayo’s death.
Harco faces a maximum $35,000 fine at sentencing in July. The city may also review its licensing.
Still awaiting trial in Moncayo’s death: Sky foreman Wilmer Cueva and Harco supervisor Alfonso Prestia. Sky and its owner, Michael Cholowsky, have also been separately charged with insurance fraud for allegedly cheating on workers comp premiums.
NYC construction is dangerous
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has vowed to use criminal prosecutions to counter Manhattan’s high – and increasing – rate of construction fatalities. Worker safety advocates have accused local officials of being lax on regulatory compliance because of pressure fromhigh end real estate developers who want buildings to go up as quickly as possible.
Harco lawyer Ron Fischetti said the judge’s ruling was wrong both on the law and the facts. “It appears that any tragic accident that happens on a construction site, without any evidence of wrongdoing the general contractor is liable,” he said.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), called for Harco to receive the maximum penalty.
A "new day"
"This is an historic conviction which we hope will save the lives of workers - as it puts general contractors and sub-contractors on notice that it is a new day in New York City and we will not tolerate reckless profit that endangers and kills workers,” said NYCOSH's Associate Director, Nadia Marin-Molina. “We also hope news of this Harco Construction conviction will reach more workers and increase awareness about workers' rights when faced with unsafe workplaces, of which non-union workplaces are the most dangerous."