Nearly 10 months after a tower crane collapsed while it was being raised in Turtle Bay, prosecutors on Monday filed charges against William Rapetti and his company.
Both face seven counts of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault.
The massive crane collapse in March 2008 killed seven and injured dozens of others.
“It’s incredible to me that the rigger would not have taken the basic safety requirements mandated by the manufacturer,” said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
Requirements state that eight nylon slings be used in the process. Prosecutors said Rapetti used only half that number and one was clearly worn.
“It’s incredible that he would be so careless as to use four, one of them badly damaged when there were new slings on site,” said Morgenthau.
Rapetti entered a not guilty plea. His attorney, Arthur Aidala, said this was just a tragic accident.
“It’s killing him that his friends are gone and that their kids are growing up without a father,” said Aidala.
Rapetti’s attorney said his client is an expert in the craning business and that his skills were held in such high regard, he was the only rigger called in to help in the search for survivors at Ground Zero.
He also said Rapetti triple checked before going ahead with the 51st Street job last March, but now believes Rapetti is being made a scapegoat.
“The fact that one person is even held accountable is reprehensible because there were so many people who were involved in that job site,” said Aidala.
After the tower collapse, the New York City Department of Buildings began requiring inspectors to be present during the process, called jumping, but the DOB commissioner said lack of resources has forced them to do only random checks.
“Hopefully the fact that these crews around the city know that the DOB will show up at any given jump will have some type of impact,” said New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill-Hearn.
The DOB said it is now more vigilant in enforcing rigging rules.
“Improper rigging operations led to this accident, and the Department has since increased its enforcement over the industry, with crane inspectors issuing more than 400 Stop Work Orders in 2008 — more than double the total issued during the previous year,” said DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri in a released statement.
Prosecutors said this case isn’t about the failure of inspectors, but Rapetti’s negligence.
“It’s the master rigger that has the license, it is the master rigger’s responsibility,” said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Sean Sullivan.
Rapetti’s lawyer said he doesn’t know how the District Attorney can be so certain that the slings they found were the ones actually on the crane that day, since there were dozens of slings there and the site was a disaster.
Rapetti is a free man after posting $75,000 bond and is due back in court on February 19.