updated 12/8/2007 4:43:04 AM ET 2007-12-08T09:43:04

Their job was one of routine peril — washing windows on Manhattan skyscrapers.

The danger proved deadly for Edgar Moreno and nearly so for his brother. Their scaffold gave way as they stepped onto it Friday from the roof of a 47-story Upper East Side apartment building, sending them on a horrifying plunge to a plaza below.

“They apparently fell all the way from the top,” said Fire Department spokesman John Mulligan.

Edgar Moreno, 30, of Linden, N.J., was pronounced dead at the scene. His 37-year-old brother was taken to a hospital in critical condition, officials said. No update on his condition was available early Saturday from firefighters or police.

Investigation under way
Authorities were investigating why the scaffold failed. Solow Management Corp., the building’s owner, issued a statement Friday extending sympathy to the workers’ family and said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Officials said the two worked for City Wide Window Cleaning in Queens. One of the company’s phone numbers was out of service, and a person who answered a second number said she was authorized only to answer service calls and would not take a message seeking comment.

A doorman at the building said the window washers had worked there for about three years.

Phil Stellar, who lives on the ninth floor of the modern glass tower on East 66th Street, was packing for a business trip around 10:30 a.m. Friday when he said, “I heard a stunning rumble.”

‘Life is very tentative’
It was the scaffold falling. Parts of it and Edgar Moreno’s body landed in a plaza outside the building.

“It’s a horrible, horrible tragedy and a reminder that life is very tentative,” Stellar said.

About three hours after the accident, a piece of glass from a window on the top floor, where the scaffold had been attached, fell to the ground. No one was hurt when the glass fell, but the city Buildings Department ordered the street partially blocked until glass damaged by the falling scaffold was repaired. The agency also ordered repairs to a nearby home where debris fell through the skylights.

Scaffolds cover the facades of thousands of buildings in New York City, mostly at construction sites.

In 2006, 43 construction workers died on the job in New York, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The death toll was up 87 percent from 2005, when 23 people died.

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