The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has levied charges of felony assault and reckless endangerment against two construction company managers for the East Harlem crane accident which left two construction workers with life-altering brain and spinal injuries and occurred on June 25th, 2018.
Prosecutors allege that the accident occurred because the operator was untrained, the crane not tethered down, and most damningly, the crane’s maximum capacity exceeded by nearly 1,000 pounds. It’s also alleged that the contractors did not submit engineering plans for the crane’s usage, which violates the Department of Building’s (DOB) safety protocol.
The two being charged are Timothy Braico, a senior branch manager for the Western Waterproofing Company, and Terrence Edwards, the site supervisor on the day of the accident. It is alleged that Braico rented the mini crane without ensuring that it was properly set up, or that anybody on the construction site was trained to use it. It is further alleged that Edwards ordered an untrained worker to operate the crane, without considering whether the worker was properly trained.
The accident occurred on the fourth floor of a mixed-use building on East 125th Street between Lexington and Third Avenue. The miniature crane, a Jekko MPK20W+, was being used to lift glass panes. But the crane was being pushed far beyond its lifting capacity, which is 880 pounds, while DOB officials estimated that the weight of the glass panels was about 1,800 pounds.
In a shocking, newly-released video of the incident, the glass pane becomes visible in the screen just as the crane boom dips and begins to topple over. The boom then swings inside the third floor of the building where it hits Christopher Jackson, tears his safety harness and sends him flying three stories to the ground, causing him severe brain injuries. A worker on the ground below, Jorge Delgado, was struck in the back, causing severe spinal injuries which have affected his ability to walk.
“These defendants knowingly skirted DOB protocols to speed up their project,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., “resulting in devastating, life-changing injuries for two workers.”
The subcontractor involved is cooperating with the investigation, according to prosecutors, and claims that the Jekko crane was a substitute for a previously-approved crane. The Jekko crane involved is a miniature model, which is becoming increasingly common on construction sites because they are cheaper and easier to set up.
The DOB notably revised crane regulations following a 2016 crane collapse in TriBeCa which killed one man and injured several others, specifying that construction sites must now employ a “lift director” to monitor weather conditions and inspect the crane to ensure it is operated safely. These regulations, however, were aimed specifically at crawler cranes, which are significantly larger than the crane involved in this incident.
A separate set of regulatory requirements exist for the use of mini cranes, which are defined as a mobile crane with a boom length under 50 feet, and with a load capability of three tons or less. These regulations further specify that the operator of a mini crane must be licensed as a New York City Hoisting Machine Operator or hold a valid manufacturer-issued certification for a specific make and model. Jekko Mini Crane is specifically mentioned as a manufacturer certification program that is accepted by the department, indicating that there were multiple avenues for these construction managers to find a trained operator if they cared to. Notably, the lift director required for most cranes is not currently required for the operation of mini cranes.
Braico and Edwards have pled not guilty to these charges. Anybody who is concerned with the safety of New York construction workers will be interested to see if they are successfully prosecuted or not.