Construction deaths rarely lead to criminal prosecutions, much less convictions. That's one reason why last week's guilty verdict in New York City is big news for contractors. Justice A. Kirke Bartley, Jr., of the New York County Supreme Court in the 1st Judicial District of New York, found Harco Construction guilty of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old immigrant from Ecuador who was buried in an excavation collapse in April 2016. The New York Daily News has a report (see: "Harco Construction found guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide in fatal 2015 Meatpacking District collapse," by Shayna Jacobs).

This NYPD photo taken on April 6, 2015, shows the jobsite where construction worker Carlos Moncayo died after supervisors ignored a safety inspector's demand to stop work because of unsafe excavation. (Source: Manhattan District Attorney)
This NYPD photo taken on April 6, 2015, shows the jobsite where construction worker Carlos Moncayo died after supervisors ignored a safety inspector's demand to stop work because of unsafe excavation. (Source: Manhattan District Attorney)

More trials are ahead in Moncayo's death, Newsday reported (see: "Harco Construction found guilty in fatal trench collapse," by John Riley). "Long Island excavation subcontractor Sky Materials faces a future trial on the same charges," Newsday reported. "In addition to Sky, which has facilities in Calverton and Queens, Sky foreman Wilmer Cueva and Harco supervisor Alfonso Prestia face future trials over Moncayo’s death. Sky and its owner, Michael Cholowsky, have also been separately charged with insurance fraud for allegedly cheating on workers comp premiums."

In a charging statement last year, the Manhattan DA's office alleged that Cueva and Prestia ignored repeated face-to-face warnings from a safety inspector on the site (see Press Release), after the inspection company, Domani Inspection Services Inc., had warned supervisors for months about unsafe conditions, in meetings and via email. On the day of the death, according to the charges, the Domani inspector made multiple efforts over several hours to persuade Prestia and Cueva to order their workers out of the hole, as the excavation got deeper and deeper. Finally, the 13-foot trench collapsed, killing Moncayo.