Pedestrian Tina Nguyen was walking through the bucolic tree-lined streets of Greenwich Village this week, talking on her cell phone when tragedy struck. Nguyen, a 37 year old real estate agent, was killed in a freak accident when massive winds caused a large piece of 4 foot by 8 foot plywood at a nearby construction state to fly away and slam into her.
The plywood reportedly came from the construction site at the former home of the now closed St. Vincent’s Hospital. Nguyen was thrown into a wall outside of a parking garage, violently striking her head. She was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
The construction site where this tragedy took place is not without its share of controversy. The Department of Buildings issued a stop work order for the site following this accident. That is fairly standard. Still, the site has accumulated many recent complaints and currently has 11 open violations. That is concerning, to say the least. The scope of these violations may illuminate how focused the contractors at the site were on safety.
Readers must be wondering, was this an accident caused solely by the forces of ‘Mother Nature?’ Was this tragedy unavoidable? There will be a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this accident. Questions will be answered by the appropriate investigative agencies. Given the dangerous weather conditions, an appropriate focus will be on whether the materials at the construction site were properly secured. Under ordinary conditions construction site materials and debris need to be secured to keep people safe. They can fall and strike an unsuspecting victim, create a hazard that increases the likelihood that workers will fall or, like in or in this case blow away and strike a worker or pedestrian.
This responsibility is obviously heightened when there are high winds in the area. Perhaps they did everything they could have done under the circumstances . . . but maybe someone at this site should have had the temerity to stop working under these treacherous weather conditions. If common sense prevailed maybe this tragic accident would be avoided. Was the decision to continue working under high wind conditions motivated by a desire to finish the work faster? Where innocent victims exposed to unnecessary dangers because of a profit motive? These are fair and legitimate questions.
We will continue to follow the investigation as it unfolds. The news cycle will move on to something else rather fast but it cannot go unnoticed that this is another person in New York City who has lost their life at the foot of a construction site. It also deserves mention that the loved ones of Tina Nguyen face a very difficult time moving forward. Our thoughts and prayers remain with them. May they have the strength to carry on.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm that prides itself on representing people who are injured in construction related accidents. You may learn more about the firm by reviewing the firm website at www.blockotoole.com. You may call them at 212-736-5300 for a free consultation.