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Construction & Design

Death trench foreman found guilty

A foreman who failed to get workers out of an excavation trench that collapsed and killed a man has been found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

Wilmer Cueva, 51, ignored warnings about unsafe — and illegal — conditions at the site, which caused the death of 22-year-old worker Carlos Moncayo, and endangered several other construction workers, according to New York State Supreme Court.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said, “When construction supervisors take shortcuts, they take chances with their workers’ lives.

“Wilmer Cueva ignored repeated warnings about the treacherous state of the excavations he was directing — resulting in the preventable and foreseeable death of Carlos Moncayo.

“Today’s verdict again places companies and managers on notice: those who knowingly permit unsafe construction practices will face criminal charges is a worker is injured or dies as a result.”

The jury had earlier heard how Cueva was employed by excavation subcontractor Sky Materials as the on-site foreman at 9-19 Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District, where Aurora Capital is building a mixed use project that will include a nearly 60,000 s/f Restoration Hardware.

Although city Building Codes require excavations deeper than five feet to be secured to protect workers and prevent structural collapse, the trenches at 9-19 Ninth Avenue were not secured despite repeated warnings from inspectors.

The court heard how, just hours after an inspector visited the site on April 6, 2016, and found workers still digging in a trench that was by now 13 ft. deep, the trench collapsed, crushing Moncayo to death.
Earlier this year, Harco Construction was convicted of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Criminally Negligent Homicide, and Reckless Endangerment for the company’s role in failing to heed and address unsafe work conditions at the site, contributing to the collapse of the excavation pit and death of Carlos Moncayo.

The cases against the other defendants indicted in connection with the incident, Sky Materials and Alfonso Prestia, are pending.

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