The owner of a Bensonhurst, NY construction company and his businesses have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges stemming from an incident at a Coney Island construction site in April 2015 that left a 50-year-old construction worker dead, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters announced.
Salvatore Schirripa, 66 — who owns J & M Metro General Contracting Corp and Metrotech Development Corp., located on 63rd Street and 64th Street in Bensonhurst — was arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court on an eight-count indictment for failing to secure a building site, which caused the worker to fall to his death, according to Thompson.
“A hardworking man died tragically and unnecessarily because proper safety measures were not taken to protect his life. As buildings go up all over Brooklyn, we owe it to every construction worker to make sure that they don’t lose their lives due to short cuts on safety. This indictment for manslaughter reflects that commitment,” said Thompson.
Schirripa and his companies were charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, second-degree criminal possession of a false instrument, violation of the workers’ compensation law, and willful failure to pay contributions to the unemployment insurance fund, said Thompson.
How it happened
Three of Schirripa’s employees from J & M Metro General Contracting Corp. were pouring and smoothing concrete on the sixth floor of a construction worksite at 360 Neptune Avenue on April 1, 2015, in Coney Island on the edge of a building, without a protective fence, harnesses or fall protection as required by the New York City construction regulations.
At approximately 11 a.m, while walking backwards, using a rake-like instrument to smooth the concrete in front of him, one of the workers, Vidal Sanchez-Ramon, 50, reached the edge and fell six floors to his death, according to prosecutors.
Four warnings before the fatality
On four different occasions — in September 2011, December 2011, April 2013 and August 2014 — Department of Buildings inspectors served Schirripa and Metrotech Development Corp. at three separate worksites in Brooklyn, with Notices of Violations, ordering them to immediately provide guardrail systems and handrails to protect workers from falls.
In October 2011, January 2012 and June 2013, after hearings on three of the Notices of Violations, the Environmental Control Board issued decisions to Schirripa and Metrotech Development Corp., reaffirming those obligations. Also, in 2011 and 2012, at a worksite in Brooklyn, OSHA safety compliance officers ordered Schirripa and Metrotech Development Corp. to provide fall protection to their employees in compliance with OSHA regulations.
“The deaths of Mr. Sanchez and the seven other New York City construction workers in falls in 2015 were all needless and preventable. These were people, not numbers. This indictment sends a strong message to those employers who would neglect their legal responsibility to provide their employees with safe workplaces and working conditions,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Robert Kulick.
From August 2014 to April 1, 2015, J & M Metro General Contracting Corp. was the concrete subcontractor on the construction of a six-story commercial building, with a steel frame and concrete floors, at 360 Neptune Avenue. As the employer and foreman, the defendant was responsible for ensuring his workers’ safety, including providing fall protection when they worked on any unprotected work area at a height of six feet or more above the level below.
It is alleged that beginning in early 2015, Schirripa and his employees poured the concrete floors, from the bottom up, pouring one floor approximately every other week, after the steel subcontractor installed the steel deck and a wire cable fence at the perimeter of the work area, around steel supporting columns, as fall protection.
Employer saw unprotected edge
On several locations on the third, fourth and fifth floors, Schirripa saw that the wire cable fence installed by the steel subcontractor was set in several feet from the edge, leaving an unprotected work surface between the fence and the edge. Schirripa knew that his workers would have to step outside the protective fence to install wire mesh prior to the concrete pour and to smooth the concrete once poured, according to the indictment. Yet Schirripa did not provide harnesses or other fall protection to his employees.
Several days prior April 1, 2015, Schirripa allegedly visited the worksite and saw that the wire cable fence was positioned several feet in from the edge, along one entire side of the floor. Nevertheless, on April 1, 2015, Schirripa directed that his workers pour and smooth the concrete. This required the workers to step outside the wire cable fence without harnesses, argue prosecutors.
Faked workers' comp certificate
To make matters worse, Schirripa failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage for his employees, submitting a false certificate of coverage to the NYC DOB when renewing his general contractor’s license on March 30, 2015 for Metrotech Development Corp, according to the indictment. He never had workers’ compensation coverage for J & M Metro General Contracting Corp. employees. He also allegedly failed to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, as required by law, for the second quarter of 2015.
Schirripa was ordered held on $35,000 bail and to return to court on September 7. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.