2 Fall to Their Deaths at Upper West Side Construction Site

From  The New York Times

Two ironworkers died on Tuesday morning after falling 65 feet in an elevator shaft inside a building on the Upper West Side that is being redeveloped for a church, city officials said.

The men fell, investigators believe, while they were installing steel beams in the elevator shaft on the fifth floor and one of the beams shifted. However, it appeared that several required protective measures were not in place, said Robert LiMandri, the commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

“We’ll have a set of violations that will be written today,” Mr. LiMandri said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon outside the building, at 150 West 83rd Street.

Sites are required to have multiple safety precautions in place, which can include either netting or a wooden platform, Mr. LiMandri said. “Right now we have no evidence in detail that gives us assurance that there were safety measures in place,” he said. “So far,” he added, “we haven’t been able to see the proper fall protection.”

The men were part of a four-person crew and were not wearing harnesses — which are not required by law — when they fell, according to two officials with knowledge of the accident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

The accident brought the number of construction deaths in the city in 2011 to three, only one fewer than the four in all of 2010. There were three construction deaths in the city in 2009. The four deaths last year involved workers who did not have proper fall protections in place, according to a spokesman for the Buildings Department.

The Buildings Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident. Work at the site has stopped while the investigation continues.

Just after 10:30 a.m., the block quickly became a frantic rescue site. Fire personnel, according to a Fire Department spokesman and one witness, rushed to the scene and tried to resuscitate at least one of the victims, who had gone into cardiac arrest. The two men were pronounced dead at separate hospitals.

The F. J. Sciame Construction Company, the construction manager, confirmed the deaths. The men were identified as Brett McEnroe, 49, of Dover Plains, N.Y., and Roy Powell, 51, of New Paltz, N.Y.

The building, near Amsterdam Avenue, is being developed for Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

In a statement, Sciame said that it was “fully cooperating with the investigation and extends its deepest sympathy to the families of the men who lost their lives today.”

Sciame officials said the men worked for Weir Welding and Cross County Erectors. But a woman who answered the phone at Weir Welding in Carlstadt, N.J., said the men were employees of Cross County Contracting in Pine Bush, N.Y.

The church, which bought the building in 2008, hired Sciame to convert a five-story parking garage built in 1910 into a seven-story, 43,000-square-foot worship and community center.

Mr. LiMandri said that there was a series of violations tied to the building since late 2009, although none of the violations pertained to the type of work the men who died were doing on Tuesday.

Tim Stelloh contributed reporting.

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