A construction company has been convicted of five counts, including manslaughter, in connection with the death of a worker who was crushed to death when an unshored, 13-foot-deep trench collapsed.
A New York state judge convicted Harco Construction LLC (aka H&H Builders Inc.) for recklessly causing the death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo, an Ecuadorian immigrant.
Along with the top count of second-degree manslaughter, Harco was also convicted of criminally negligent homicide and three counts of reckless endangerment.
Sentencing is July 13. The company faces up to $35,000 in penalties. There are even larger ramifications for the company. It could be difficult to be hired for jobs with a manslaughter conviction. New York City could also review its license to operate which was suspended after the incident.
From February to April 2015, Harco received repeated warnings about trenches at the construction site in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The site was to be a new location of the retail chain, Restoration Hardware.
At 9:45 a.m. on April 6, 2015, an inspector noted there was a seven-foot-deep unprotected trench at the work site. Trenches must have protection against collapse under OSHA regulations when they reach five-feet deep. The inspector notified two supervisors on site.
Less than an hour later, the same inspector noticed four workers in the same trench which was now 13-feet deep. The inspector told a supervisor that the workers needed to get out of the trench.
Almost an hour later, another supervisor finally ordered the workers in English to get out of the trench. The workers spoke primarily Spanish, and they didn’t immediately get out of the trench. About 20 minutes later, the trench collapsed and Moncayo was crushed to death.
Two supervisors and one other company still face the same charges as Harco, which was the general contractor on the work site. Those cases are still pending.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called Moncayo’s death “foreseeable and preventable.” The verdict “should signal to the construction industry that managing a project from afar does not insulate a corporation or general contractor from criminal liability,” Vance said.
“It is a landmark verdict,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, associate director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal.
“It should send a really strong message to the industry that contractors can’t pretend they don’t know what’s going on in a work site, that they can’t shift blame to their employees or subcontractors,” Marin-Molina said.
Harco plans to appeal the verdict. The company’s lawyer said it wasn’t guilty of any criminal activity whatsoever.