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Charges Laid in 2008 New York Crane Collapse

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New York, NYWhen a construction crane toppled in New York City last March, 7 people died and dozens were injured. Hundreds, if not thousands were traumatized emotionally and may now live in fear at the thought of a construction crane—a familiar part of the city horizon—toppling onto them.

CraneToday a rigger is expected to be saddled with a number of charges that relate to his alleged failure to inspect a nylon strap, or sling that failed, triggering a number of events that eventually led to the collapse of the crane. William Rapetti, of Rapetti Rigging Services, was expected to surrender this morning and the charges, until now sealed, were expected to be revealed.

The charges, which Rapetti's lawyer claims will be unfounded given his client's assertion that he did nothing wrong, are serious. Charges of manslaughter, together with criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and second-degree assault, are expected.

The horrific accident happened on March 15th of last year when a construction crane toppled from the 18th floor of a building under construction. The crane slammed across East 51st street, severely damaging one building and ripping off terraces from another.

A subsequent investigation uncovered that the horrific event happened after a compromised nylon strap, one of four used to hoist a crane collar up to a higher elevation, let go. The raising of construction collars are necessary to facilitate the raising of a crane to a higher elevation.

However, in spite of the skill and experience of the rigger charged in the accident, there were a number of deficiencies found in the operation. Only four nylon straps were used to lift the collar, in deference to a manufacturer's requirement that eight straps be used. One of the straps had cuts and severe dislocations that would have severely impeded its capacity to bear weight.

True enough, the sling failed and the remaining three were not strong enough to carry the load. The collar, which is a huge crane component made of heavy steel, broke free and plunged down the side of the crane. It smashed into a second collar below, which sheared it from the side of the building. The wayward collar finally came to rest after it smashed into a third collar at the base of the crane, destabilizing the entire structure. The weight of the cab of the crane, once the crane was off its' axis, pulled the entire tower down and the cab with it.

The accusation is that Rapetti Rigging Services failed to inspect the slings, and therefore failed to remove a defective sling, and failed to comply with the crane manufacturer's recommendations and specifications during the process of attempting to raise the crane on that fateful day in March.

Rapetti's guilt, or innocence will be proven in a court of law. However, victims of the crane collapse seeking compensation have many possibilities.

That's because the then-boiling New York building boom was apparently putting a stress on the City's building departments that could not be adequately carried. It has been alleged that the Cranes and Derricks Division, and its cadre of inspectors—many of whom, it is said, lacked experience—became overwhelmed by the workload.

The crane collapse in March, and a subsequent collapse a few months later have formed the basis of an investigation by the office of the Manhattan district attorney. New York's building commissioner resigned after the second crane collapse, and the city's chief crane inspector, a subordinate and a crane company owner were arrested on corruption charges unrelated to the collapses. The latter arrests were facilitated by added scrutiny that followed the crane accidents, and while not directly related to the two collapses, the charges remain troubling nonetheless.

A fatal fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in 2007 further exposed a series of missteps by city agencies, and further exposed what has been described as deep flaws in the operations of the City Building Department.

Thus, the expectation today that one man, and one company will be charged in direct relation to the March 15th crane collapse that took 7 lives and injured dozens of others.

However, victims and their lawyers looking for compensation have numerous paths to follow, in order to find the person or persons responsible for the death and devastation.


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