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Archive for March, 2010

NY Crane Collapse Defendants Plead Not Guilty

Posted by nahetsblog on March 10, 2010

DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced multiple manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide counts on Monday in connection with the May 30, 2008, collapse of a tower crane in Manhattan. Defendants James Lomma and Tibor Varganyi entered not guilty pleas today.

  • Mar 09, 2010

Criminal charges were filed Monday against two men and two corporations for the May 30, 2008, collapse of a tower crane at a high-rise construction site in Manhattan in which two workers died and another person was seriously injured. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of James Lomma and two companies he owns, New York Crane and Equipment Corp. and J.F. Lomma Inc. The other individual charged in the indictment is Tibor Varganyi, identified by the DA’s news release as a former mechanic for New York Crane and Equipment Corp.

The two men entered not guilty pleas today, the Associated Press reported . They face multiple manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide counts, as well as charges of assault and reckless endangerment, according to the DA’s office.

"This tragedy is particularly devastating because it could have been prevented," Vance said Monday. "The construction industry depends on strict adherence to the rules to ensure the safety of the citizens in a city as densely inhabited as Manhattan. When safety is sacrificed for profit, the public bears the risk of harm. We cannot allow individuals and firms to conduct themselves in gross violation of applicable regulations and industry standards. Today’s indictment is an important step not only in holding these defendants accountable for their conduct, but should send a message to the construction industry that profit cannot be put ahead of safety."

The indictment says New York Crane and Equipment Corp. owned the Kodiak tower crane that was rented to another construction company for use at the site. It says forensic engineers concluded a failed structural weld in the crane’s turntable caused the collapse, in which the crane’s cab, boom, and upper fell to the sidewalk and street from an elevation of about 200 feet. The mean who died were Donald C. Leo of Monmouth Beach, N.J., the crane operator, and Ramadan Kurtaj, who was working at ground level. Simeon Alexis, who was working inside the building at the time, sustained serious injuries from debris.

A crack in the crane’s turntable was discovered in May 2007, and New York Crane and Equipment Corp. replaced it with a similar turntable from another Kodiak crane. The company lost about $50,000 per month in rental fees from the unusable crane, according to Vance’s office, which said Lomma directed Varganyi to find a replacement turntable, and the estimates from two "reputable turntable manufacturers" were $34,000 and $120,000 replacements taking a period of seven months to two years, respectively, to deliver. The defendants instead relied on a Chinese bearing manufacturer, RTR Bearing, that offered to fabricate a replacement bearing in China for approximately $20,000 with an estimated delivery time of three months. "Without conducting due diligence on this unknown company, the defendants relied on RTR’s unverified representations on their website and hired them to do the job," according to the indictment and court filings. The indictment charges the defendants violated New York City regulations and industry standards when they failed to employ an engineer to oversee the repairs, failed to hire a certified welding company to perform the work, and provided RTR with grossly inadequate welding specifications that were contrary to the specifications of the original bearing manufacturer. Nor did the defendants seek approval from the city’s Department of Buildings before ordering the replacement turntable, contrary to a previous directive from the department.

The defendants installed the replacement turntable on the crane that subsequently collapsed in April 2008 and "also received a second turntable from RTR, with an obviously-deficient weld. Despite learning of the defect in the identical part, the defendants took no further action to ensure the integrity of the welding on the turntable that had already been installed on the crane at East 91st Street," according to the Vance announcement.

Vance thanked the New York City Department of Investigation and its commissioner, OSHA, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigation for assisting in the case.

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Investigation of GE incident ends

Posted by nahetsblog on March 8, 2010

OSHA issues no ruling in the death of Erie man

By JIM MARTIN

OSHA has no plans to levy fines or issue a report in the death of Huff, who was killed Jan. 11 while operating a crane at the Lawrence Park Township plant.

"There are not going to be any OSHA violations issued on the case," said Theresa A. Naim, area director for the agency.

"We looked at every aspect," she added. "We looked at the mechanicals, the equipment, the workplace, the training, the emergency response. There were not any issues that we found that the company failed to do."

In fact, she said, many of GE’s standards exceed OSHA guidelines.

OSHA’s conclusion wasn’t far from the one that GE Transportation reached with its own internal inquiry that was concluded Jan. 22.

"It came down to a truly tragic accident," said Shaun Francis, the company’s general manager of human resources.

In its own investigation, which called on both internal sources and outside experts, GE Transportation concluded that Huff, who was using a remote control to operate a crane, had placed a 7,000-pound alternator on a platform about 20 inches off the ground.

The company concluded that he had disconnected the hooks that been used to lift the frame, but when he attempted to lift the crane, one of the hooks became snagged on the frame and knocked it over on top of him.

OSHA agrees with GE that there was no evidence of operator error.

But Naim said she can’t say for sure how it happened.

If OSHA were certain that a hook became snagged on the heavy frame, the agency would push for new training procedures that might prevent future problems, Naim said.

"We could not come to any specific conclusion as to how this had occurred," she said. "The case file is closed."

Francis said Monday that he wasn’t surprised by OSHA’s conclusion.

He also said the company’s focus on safety issues has been heightened in the weeks since Huff’s death.

Huff, 46, left behind a wife, Lisa McMillen Huff, and three children. She referred questions about the investigation to her brother, Michael McMillen.

McMillen said his sister had two key concerns

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