“I demand justice for my husband,” Maria Juana Huertas, widow of Segundo Huertas (48), an Ecuadorian worker who died in a workplace accident in The Bronx (NYC) in the summer of 2019, stated in Spanish this week in court.
The tragedy left five orphans. Three contractors are facing additional charges concerning Huertas’ death nearly four years later, announced District Attorney Darcel Clark. “This is the first case in the Bronx charging involuntary manslaughter and criminal negligence in a construction fatality,” he said.
Contractors Augustine Adesanmi, Akhlak Choudary, and Abazi Okoro face the most serious charges, and a fourth person is charged with fraud, NY1 noted.
Clark indicted three contractors on those charges Tuesday, alleging that an “unqualified company used fraudulent credentials, ignored oversight requirements and building codes, building a dangerously unstable structure. We will hold accountable anyone who puts workers at risk in an already dangerous profession,” prosecutor Clark said.
According to authorities, the workers were lifting blocks and bricks from the 2nd to 3rd floors while constructing a residential building at 94 East 208 Street when the floor gave way, crushing Huertas with thousands of pounds of debris. Three other workers suffered serious injuries, including a cousin and nephew of the fatality.
The prosecutor called that construction “a death trap waiting to happen.” The victim’s widow added, “I am very grateful for this investigation.”
The contractors’ lawyer told reporters he did not want to comment, claiming everything is still developing. The defendants are expected to return to court in June.
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All charges are mere accusations, and the persons indicted are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Days after the tragedy, a Department of Buildings (DOB) source indicated that there had been no reports of violations at the construction site before the partial collapse of that eight-apartment project.
In March, Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu, a Brooklyn (NYC) business owner, was convicted in the death of Luis Almonte Sanchez, an employee crushed under tons of debris in a 2018 wall collapse.
Also last month, a 64-year-old construction worker was killed, and three of his co-workers were injured when the back wall of a building collapsed in the upscale SoHo area of Manhattan (NYC).
Days later, an employee was killed when he fell 20 stories at the new Chase Bank headquarters under construction in midtown Manhattan.
In late February, laborer Jose Pereira died when a balcony collapsed on him while he was working on repairing a condominium building in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.