Manslaughter Charges for Construction Managers After Queens Worker Dies in Pit Collapse

NEW YORK CITY, NY- With construction-related deaths and injuries on the rise, prosecutors announced on Wednesday that manslaughter and other charges were being brought against two construction managers and the companies they worked for in the April death of a worker at a Lower Manhattan building site.

Manhattan’s district attorney, Cyrus R Vance also announced the creation of a task force to help identify and prosecute corruption and fraud in the construction business. And New York City officials said an emergency phone number would be set up by the Department of Buildings for the reporting of dangerous conditions.

The worker who died, Carlos Moncayo, 22, an Ecuadorean immigrant who lived in Queens, was crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt when the walls of a site in the meatpacking district, steps from the High Line, collapsed around him on April 6.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that the two managers — Wilmer Cueva, of Sky Materials, and Alfonso Prestia, of Harco Construction — had ignored repeated warnings for months from private inspectors that treacherous conditions existed at the site on Ninth Avenue.

City and federal regulations require that any excavations deeper than five feet must be shored up to prevent the walls from caving in. But in this case, at a site where a Restoration Hardware store will occupy the former home of the restaurant Pastis, the trenches went as deep as 14 feet and lacked any fortification, according to prosecutors, citing emails and other evidence.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon.