In what the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) is calling a “preventable tragedy,” a construction worker and father of five named Segundo Huerta was killed in a building collapse accident that occurred in the Norwood section of the Bronx on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. In a cruel twist of fate, other friends and family of Huerta’s were also seriously injured in the collapse.
Segundo, who lived in the Soundview section of the Bronx, was reportedly carrying building materials, thought to be cement masonry blocks, from the second to the third floor of the unfinished building when the third floor collapsed, according to New York Daily News. The collapse trapped Huerta under “an explosive avalanche of concrete and debris” as he worked with others to complete the eventual four-story residential building.
Emergency personnel quickly responded to the scene of the accident, and footage captured by NBC News 4 showed firefighters removing “what appeared to be cinder blocks” to free Segundo Huerta from rubble. A spokesperson with the FDNY said that it took about an hour to uncover the worker, and that they sadly were never able to communicate with him before retrieving his body.
Segundo was working with multiple relatives and friends when the accident occurred. Two of Segundo’s close friends or relatives were hospitalized with severe injuries, according to multiple reports, while a number of others suffered less serious injuries that could be treated at the scene.
Our hearts go out to the friends and family of Segundo Huerta, who could never have imagined that one work shift could go so wrong, so fast.
“He was an excellent father for his kids,” brother Jose Huerta told the New York Daily News. “I don’t believe my brother is dead… I saw him yesterday. I don’t believe he is dead.”
Segundo’s wife, Maria Juana Guazhco-Paguay, said she watched Huerta leave for work that morning, and then received a call from her nephew later in the day that a fatal accident had occurred.
“He was hardworking,” she said of her husband, a man of Ecuadorian descent who had been in the United States for nearly twenty years before this accident occurred. “I don’t know what I’m going to do… We spent so much time here.”
Although it is still early to state anything definitive about the cause of the accident, a source “with knowledge of the case” told the New York Daily News that “the third floor was overloaded with concrete masonry blocks, sparking the collapse.” Some neighbors told NBC News 4 that “they heard shouting coming from inside the building before it came down.”
The accident is being investigated by both the NYC DOB and the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI). A DOB spokesperson called the building collapse “a preventable tragedy” and promised to “investigate this incident aggressively and bring all appropriate enforcement actions against those responsible.”
A stop work order has been issued to the job site as that investigation continues. Earlier this year, neighbors filed a complaint with the DOB that they were afraid to walk near scaffolding which had been constructed around the building, although no violations were filed as a result of that investigation. Around that some time, however, a separate complaint of “unlicensed and illegal activity on the site couldn’t be investigated because an inspector couldn’t get into the site,” according to the New York Daily News.
The building is owned by 94 E. 208th St. Partners LLC, and the DOB issued permits for the new building earlier this year. The owner of the company, Atin Batra, has not yet commented on the collapse. The company responsible for overseeing the construction site, Pioneer General Construction, has also not yet commented.
We hope that the investigation answers all of the questions surrounding how such an unlikely and preventable construction accident could have occurred.
Building collapse accidents are extremely rare, but they are possible if parties involved in the construction process act negligently. A building under construction must be carefully managed so that it can support all of the workers and materials required to complete the job. If the floors of an unfinished building are overloaded with too many workers or too much building material at once, the building is at risk of a collapse.
There is no excuse for these types of accidents to occur, but unfortunately, they do still happen, such as in the case of this $4,475,000 settlement for the children of a construction worker who died when the floor of an unfinished building collapsed under him.
Ultimately, there can never be justice for the way this tragedy has forever changed the lives of the friends and family of Segundo Huerta. Instead, we can only hope that they are able to find some solace and healing from the physical and emotional wounds they suffered in an accident that should have been entirely preventable.