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1 Dead, 2 Hurt in Partial Manhattan Building Collapse

Dec 27, 2006 | Newsday

One construction laborer died and two others were injured Tuesday as a torrent of brick and plaster from the collapsed roof of an unoccupied five-story apartment building rained down on them, police said.

Richard Joseph, 33, of Brooklyn, was killed in the construction site accident at 280 West 113th St. The two who were injured were taken to a hospital, and no other information was immediately available on them.

"I could hear the men screaming for help," said a woman who would only identify herself as L. Smith but who witnessed the accident. "I saw them covered in debris. He had beams covering his body, across his head."

Relatives of Joseph, who had a toddler son, said he was a jovial person but he had predicted at a Christmas Eve party that he would die on the job.

"He said, you know, 'I'm not going back to this job because I just feel like I'm gonna die if I go back there,"' recalled cousin Octavio Felix, who didn't say why Joseph felt he would die.

The fire department said it responded to the call about the five-story Manhattan tenement building at about 12:30 p.m., after some of the building's floors apparently gave way and crushed a construction worker on the first floor.

No scaffolding was visible outside the building, and the outer walls did not appear to be affected. A view from the roof of a nearby building showed that the top floors of the structure had fallen in.

Neighbors near the building said they were concerned for their homes.

"I'm wondering if my building will be OK," Rose Schello said.

The Department of Buildings halted work at the partially collapsed building and was investigating.

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