Wall Collapse at Queens Construction Site Kills One Worker and Injures Three

From: New York Times

A cinder-block wall collapsed at a construction site in Queens on Monday morning, killing a 26-year-old worker and seriously injuring one of his brothers and two other workers, according to city officials and a neighbor of the victim’s family.

Uli Seit for The New York Times

The site of the collapse of a cinder-block wall in Queens where one worker was killed and three others were injured.

The city’s Department of Buildings and the Queens district attorney were investigating the accident, the first construction death recorded in New York City this year, according to the department. The police identified the dead man as Huberto Sanchez of Queens. He was one of eight siblings from Puebla, Mexico, said his sister, Angelina, 30. He was the father of two boys, and his wife, Mirella Alvarado, was expecting another child.

“I don’t have words to describe how I feel,” Angelina Sanchez, sobbing, said in Spanish on Monday night at their Queens apartment.

A neighbor, Persio Nunez, said that three of Mr. Sanchez’s brothers also worked at the construction site, and that one of them, Miguel, was among the three seriously injured on Monday.

“They go every morning to work,” said another neighbor, Rafael Hernandez, 52, and are out from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. He said that Huberto “works a lot; he doesn’t go out except to work and to come home.”

A spokesman for the Fire Department said that Huberto Sanchez had gone into cardiac arrest after the 9:30 a.m. accident, and the police said he was pronounced dead on the way to Elmhurst Hospital Center.

The three other men sustained trauma and fractures, officials said. They were in serious but stable condition at Elmhurst Hospital Center on Monday afternoon, the police said.

The wall might have suddenly collapsed because of the way the concrete was added, said Eugene Corcoran, a deputy commissioner for enforcement at the Buildings Department. Mr. Corcoran said there could have been spaces in the concrete if the material had not been properly applied. That, he said, could have made the 65-foot-wide wall unstable.

The building has had six violations since June 2009, when its contractor, the H. Rock Corporation, received a permit for the site, according to Tony Sclafani, the chief spokesman for the Buildings Department. He said the violations, which included things like failing to post proper signage or failing to keep the sidewalk free of equipment, did not relate to the construction of the wall. A person who answered the phone at the company declined to comment.

The city issued a stop-work order at the site pending the investigations.

The site where the building is under construction is owned by Thomas J. Huang, a Queens developer.

The accident occurred as two workers were perched atop the cinder-block wall, which was 18 feet tall, at the site where a five-story building was under construction, officials for the Buildings Department said. Two other workers were on the ground beneath the scaffolding when the blocks patched with concrete began to collapse.

The two men atop the wall were able to ride the cascading momentum to the ground. But the two workers at the bottom of the wall were crushed between the onslaught of blocks and the scaffolding. It was there where one of the men went into cardiac arrest.

Mr. Sanchez and the three others injured worked for a subcontractor, he said.

“When the wall came down, two were on the top and they were able to ride the wall down, which probably saved their lives,” Mr. Corcoran said.

Mr. Sclafani said the construction was in its initial stages, sitting amid a row of commercial buildings. This particular structure was intended for mixed use: commercial on the bottom, with the top four floors residential.

Last year there were four construction fatalities in New York City, and three in 2009. But over all, Mr. Sclafani said, the number of construction accidents declined 28 percent last year, to 157 from 218 in 2009.

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