Contractor indicted in fatal N.Y. crane collapse

/ Source: The Associated Press

The contractor that raised the crane that toppled in midtown Manhattan last year and killed seven people was charged Monday with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for failing to stabilize it, prosecutors said.

William Rapetti, the owner of Rapetti Rigging Services Inc., and his company were indicted in the March 15 collapse, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

Rapetti and the company were charged with seven counts each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and charges including assault, reckless endangerment and failing to file tax returns.

Six construction workers and a Florida tourist in town for St. Patrick's Day weekend died when the 19-story tower crane toppled from a luxury apartment tower under construction. The accident destroyed a four-story townhouse and damaged many other buildings.

Morgenthau said Monday that Rapetti's "reckless and negligent rigging practices" caused the crane to fall while a crew was trying to raise it.

He said Rapetti improperly used slings that were supposed to stabilize a steel brace attaching the crane to an apartment building under construction. The 12,000-pound brace, called a collar, snapped and fell, dislodging the crane.

Lawyer denies charges
Rapetti's attorney, Arthur Aidala, said in an e-mail that Rapetti, a crane rigger and operator, surrendered to prosecutors Monday. He said Rapetti is innocent.

"William Rapetti and Rapetti Rigging have a long and distinguished record of excellence, safety and public service spanning decades," Aidala said. "William Rapetti is determined to help clear his name and demonstrate that he and his company operated and supervised the site in a manner beyond reproach."

Rapetti's company in Massapequa Park was one of three contractors fined over $300,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations stemming from the collapse.

The agency said Rapetti had failed to comply with the crane manufacturer's specifications when erecting and raising the steel tower, and didn't provide enough safety protection to keep workers from falling.

The accident was one of a spate of fatal construction accidents in the city, including a second crane collapse in May that killed two workers. The city building commissioner resigned two months after the collapse amid revelations that the 43-story tower under construction was mistakenly approved.