Brooklyn, NYC – The owner of a construction company has been indicted on charges of manslaughter after a wall collapse killed 18-year old construction worker Fernando Vanegaz, and injured two others. He allegedly ignored building codes, worker safety concerns, and workplace safety laws.
Vanegaz suffered severe head trauma, lacerations to his head, broken legs and cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at the scene. A third worker also suffered a lumbar vertebra fracture, a fractured nose and skull and orbital area, a crushed face and scalp, a fractured rib and other facial bone fractures. He had back surgery and continues to have difficulty with physical activity and suffers constant back pain.
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, alleged in his statement that in this case, the builder went ahead with illicit excavation even after the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) explicitly prohibited it. The District Attorney identified the defendants as Michael Weiss, 47, of Throop Avenue in Williamsburg and his companies, RSBY NY Builders Inc. and Park Ave Builders Inc., both in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Weiss was arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 14-count indictment in which he is charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree assault, third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree criminal tax fraud, first-degree falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, fraudulent practices under the workers’ compensation law and failing to secure workers’ compensation insurance.
An indicted co-conspirator is also charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and will be arraigned at a later date.
Gonzalez said that Weiss began working on the site in June 2015 after being hired by the building owners to replace a one-story fruit store with a five-story mixed-use building that would house a shoe store and residential apartments. Weiss hired seven workers with little to no training and without OSHA safety certifications to do the demolition.
Weiss was ordered held on bail of $250,000 bond or $100,000 cash and to return to court on August 9, 2017. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count. His co-defendant faces up to one year in prison if convicted.