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Deadly New York Crane Collapse Results in Manslaughter, Other Charges for Contractor

Jan 6, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A contractor from Long Island has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and assault in connection with a deadly New York City crane collapse that killed seven people last year.  According to a report on, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said William Rapetti's "reckless and negligent rigging practices" led to the fatal accident last March at a construction site in Midtown.

The crane collapse occurred on the east side of midtown Manhattan the afternoon of March 18.  The crane was being used in the construction of a  43-story luxury apartment building.  The crane broke into pieces as it crashed down onto 51st street, not far from the United Nations Building.  Several buildings were damaged in the New York crane collapse, and residents in about 300 apartments in 17 buildings were evacuated. The accident killed six workers from the construction site, as well as a Florida woman visiting the city who was staying with a friend in the destroyed townhouse.

Rapetti, the owner of Rapetti Rigging Services in Massapequa Park, was indicted, arraigned and released on $75,000 bail yesterday, Newsday said.  He pled not guilty to the charges.

According to Newsday, Morganthau charged that Rapetti failed to properly stabilize the crane to a condo tower under construction.  The District Attorney said the accident was the result of Rapetti's decision to use four protective slings - not eight as should have been done - to lift a six-ton piece of steel up the crane.  One of the slings used was defective and snapped while raising the crane.  Morganthau said the accident could have "easily been avoided" had the proper number of slings been used.

Rapetti is not the only person to face criminal charges as a result of the March crane collapse.  A few days after the accident, Buildings Department inspector Edward Marquette was arrested on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. Marquette was an inspector in the building department’s division of cranes and derricks.  A complaint about the doomed crane was logged March 4 to a city hot line, officials said, and Marquette said he inspected it. It was later determined he had not.

According to Newsday, in September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Rapetti's company $220,000 and issued three willful violations - the most severe - for failing to inspect the slings and failing to follow proper procedure when raising or lowering a crane.

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