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Collapse Horror

Dec 27, 2006 | New York Post

A construction worker who died yesterday in a Harlem building collapse made an eerie prediction that he would be killed on the job, relatives said yesterday.

Richard Joseph, 33, of Brooklyn was killed and two other workers were injured when the roof of 280 W. 113th St. collapsed, sending four floors cascading down in a thunderous roar of bricks and beams.

"At our family party on Christmas Eve, Richard said, 'I'm going to die on this job,' " his cousin Octavia Felix said.

Joseph had taken a two-month leave from his job as a police officer in Barbados to explore a possible move to New York, but things hadn't worked out and he'd been planning to go home to be with his 2-year-old son, his family said.

"He was supposed to leave for Barbados on Friday," said another cousin, Paula Flororenville.

"He told me the job is too risky. He didn't want to go back, but since he only had two days left, he did."

Joseph was buried under a pile of beams.

"I could hear the men screaming for help. I could see one of them covered in debris. I thought, 'Oh, my God! He must be dead,' " said a security guard who works nearby.

The terrifying accident occurred at 12:31 p.m. as the men were working on the first floor.

The five-story building had been gutted and was being converted into apartments.

One of the workers managed to struggle free and the second was freed by firefighters. They were taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where a spokesman said they suffered only minor injuries.

Joseph's family said one of the injured men was the victim's uncle, Stephen Fanfane, 39, who suffered a broken leg.

"We're all in pain," said Jeffrey Ramos, 26, who had worked with Joseph. "He was a hardworking man, a good man."

The city's Buildings Department ordered all work at the site stopped and planned to charge the contractor, Transcorp Construction of Elmhurst, Queens, with four violations, including failure to carry out a proper demolition under the building code, an official said.

The company's president, Amran Khan Niazi, did not return calls.

The building was undergoing a renovation under a city program that sells empty buildings to developers.

A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development said that in January 2003, the empty building was sold to a holding company, the Neighborhood Partnership Housing Development Fund.

The partnership was fined $800 in August for constructing scaffolding without a permit. Another violation for failing to maintain the scaffolding is pending.

Ralph McCoy, the president of Global Properties, which was to assume ownership once the renovation was complete, would not comment.

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