An orange mini-crane was lifting a glass wall-panel onto an East Harlem condominium project last June when its 14-foot-long jib dipped abruptly. A moment later, the entire crane somersaulted to the street below.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged two construction company managers on Thursday with felony assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the accident, which left two ironworkers with disabling injuries.
In announcing the charges, officials described a series of bungles that they said contributed to the accident: The worker operating the crane was untrained, the crane wasn’t tethered down and its load exceeded the maximum capacity for the way it was used. In addition, Department of Buildings safety protocols hadn’t been followed, including the requirement that contractors submit engineer plans for crane use, officials said.
The two employees charged Thursday are Timothy Braico, 41 years old, a senior branch manager for Western Waterproofing Company; and Terrence Edwards, 39, the site supervisor for the company.
Mr. Braico had ordered the crane delivered to the site, while Mr. Edwards had assigned an untrained worker to operate it, prosecutors said.
“These defendants knowingly skirted DOB safety protocols to speed up their project, resulting in devastating, life-changing injuries for two workers,” Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said.
Serious crane accidents are rare and typically involve larger cranes with booms 100 or more feet long. Smaller cranes like the one in the East Harlem accident were introduced in recent years to cut costs and speed up construction.
Some 1,200 cranes are currently in use in New York City, DOB officials said, including 50 tower cranes that climb up the sides of new high rises.
But the crane that toppled in East Harlem, a Jekko MPK20W+, was a fraction of the size. It was set up to have a lifting capacity of 880 pounds, while DOB officials who investigated the accident estimated the weight of the panel at 1,800 pounds.
The two defendants’ “callous disregard for safety rules, combined with a wildly overtaxed mini-crane nearly cost several workers their lives,” said DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler.
The crane had been set up on the fourth floor of the shell of an 11-story mixed-use building being developed by the Blumenfeld Development Group on East 125th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues.
Union ironworkers employed by Western, a subcontractor hired to install the facade, were leaning out the third floor and guiding the panel into place when the crane tipped forward. It knocked into one worker, Christopher Jackson, severing his safety harness and pushing him out. He plunged to the ground, suffering traumatic brain injury, prosecutors said. The second worker, Jorge Delgado, was struck in the back when the crane toppled and sustained severe spinal injuries, they said.
Western cooperated in the investigation, prosecutors said. In a statement submitted to prosecutors, Western said the Jekko crane was a substitute for an approved crane, and the company’s employees rushed into use it without having a trained operator available.
The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement in which it consented to provide improved safety training, pay for public-service announcements about worker safety and retain an independent monitor.
The two defendants pleaded not guilty at an arraignment, and bail was set at $100,000. Lawyers for the defendants weren’t immediately identified.
Write to Josh Barbanel at [email protected]