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Building Demolition Turns Deadly

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

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A partial building collapse in Midtown Manhattan has left one worker dead and another seriously injured.

Pedro Basilico, 26, of Brooklyn, died when a five-story building in which he was working caved in late Friday (Oct. 30) morning, according to multiple news reports. His co-worker, Kairo Garcia, 29, was hospitalized with serious injuries after a three-hour rescue effort, the New York Daily News reported.

The newspaper said that Basilico was an immigrant worker who sent money home to his family in Puebla, Mexico.

“He would go to work and come back, no drinking and no drugs,” according to Jamie DeJesus, who the Daily News said is a friend of Basilico. “He was very friendly and outgoing when we engaged him, but just very quiet.”

The men were working to demolish the building on West 38th Street to make way for a luxury boutique hotel, according to an NBC affiliate in New York. When the building fell, it formed a “V-shape” cavity, which made rescuing Garcia difficult, authorities told the news channel.

As of Monday (Nov. 2), officials were still trying to determine what caused the collapse, according to multiple media reports.

The Collapse

The Daily News said Basilico was working on the first floor of the building when it fell. His body was found pinned against a trash container under “tons of debris,” the paper said.

Meanwhile, Garcia was buried up to his waist in debris from the collapse, too, the newspaper said. The Daily News reported that emergency crews hooked him up to IVs while he was still in the building, and called his rescue “miraculous.”

NYPD Sgt. Michael Edwards of the department’s emergency services unit told NBC New York that Garcia was conscious during the rescue effort.

“He was cooperative,” said Edwards. “He wasn’t panicking.”

NBC New York said at least 60 firefighters responded to the collapse.

Stop Work Order

The commissioner of New York City’s Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order for the project, but said that neighboring buildings were stable.

“Our thoughts are with the workers, their families, and everyone affected by this tragedy,” said Rick Chandler in a statement given to NBC New York. “We are reminded of the risks of construction work, particularly in the demolition of buildings, and the duty of safety professionals and everyone in the construction industry to ensure work sites are as safe possible.”

Company Profiles

The developer, Fortuna Realty Group, declined media requests for comment, sources say. However, NBC New York reported that a woman who answered the phone at the realty group said the demolition company—which also could not be reached for comment—is Northeast Service Interiors.

Fortuna’s website appeared to be shut down as of Monday afternoon. The website for Northeast Service Interiors indicated that the Maspeth, NY-based company offers interior and exterior demolition service; container services; and labor and equipment to other companies.

The Daily News said Northeast Interiors had taken over demolition just two weeks prior to the collapse because another company—which the paper did not name—walked away from the job in a dispute over money.

A search of inspection data on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website did not reveal any prior inspections or citations for either company.

 

Robert Bankston, a demolition contractor who formerly worked at the site, told the news station that the two neighboring buildings were sound when the project began.

“It wasn’t like the buildings were falling down,” Bankston reportedly said.

NBC New York said Fortuna bought the property in 2012 for $11.8 million, and a demolition permit was issued in May. Other permits—including those for sprinklers, electrical work and other things—also have been issued, the news channel said.

Owner Statement

Development plans for the property include a 28-story, 180-room Aloft hotel, which is owned by Starwood Hotels. The hotel is scheduled to open in May 2018.

“We are very saddened to hear media reports of the accident and our thoughts are with the family of the worker who was reported to have lost his life and with workers who were injured,” Starwood management—who said the company is not involved in the demolition or construction work at this time—said in a statement to NBC New York.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial Buildings; Commercial Construction; Commercial contractors; Construction; Demolition; Fatalities; Health and safety; Hotels; OSHA; Safety

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