Judge Finds Rigger’s Recklessness Caused Deadly NYC Accident

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The warnings signs were present, and safety complaints had been called into the city. Yet, seven people were killed in a senseless and fully preventable tragedy.

On March 14, 2008, William Rapetti and his crew were in the process of raising the height of a crane being used on a New York building site. In the process of "jumping" the crane, the massive 400-foot crane collapsed, smashing an adjacent townhouse and crushing seven people to death.

Because of the construction site accident, Rapetti's license was immediately suspended pending administrative hearing by the Department of Buildings. He also faced criminal charges such as manslaughter and criminally negligent charges as well as civil lawsuits.

In the process of investigating the accident, evidence was found to support the case that Rapetti had ignored safety procedures and taken shortcuts on the worksite. Specifically, he used worn polyesters slings to secure the crane instead of using new slings that cost only $50 each. He later admitted to federal investigators that he had not checked the slings for damage. Further, the investigation found Rapetti had used only half as many straps as the manufacturer called for and disregarded the manufacturer's instructions for use.

The criminal trial for Rapetti concluded in July 2010 when a Manhattan judge ruled the tragedy was avoidable but not criminal and found him not guilty on all 20 counts. However, the New York City Department of Buildings ruled differently.

Following the department's hearing in July 2011, the administrative law judge found Rapetti guilty of negligence and violating local and federal laws and professional standards. Further, the judge determined that Rapetti's negligence was the primary cause of the deadly crane collapse.

William Rapetti's professional license has since been revoked, effectively barring him from assembling, overseeing or operating cranes in New York City. However, the administrative judge's ruling may be a factor in the results of any civil cases brought against Rapetti.

Following serious construction accidents, such as the New York crane collapse, injured individuals and families of those killed may have the legal right to bring civil lawsuits against the people, companies and manufacturers deemed responsible. Personal injury lawyers experienced in handling workplace accident claims can help victims determine if there are sufficient grounds to pursue financial compensation for loss.