Carlos Moncayo was just 22 when an unsupported trench at a Manhattan construction site collapsed, killing him. The accident happen on April 6, 2015 on the same day an OSHA inspector had warned the subcontractor, Sky Materials Corporation, and the general contractor, Harco Construction, that the trench was unsafe.
Thursday, the New York District Attorney’s Office said Wilmer Cueva, 51, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, a foreman with Sky Materials, was sentenced to one to three years in a state prison for his part in the death of Moncayo. Cueva personally directed several workers to perform illegal excavation work - even refusing to stop the work after being warned about the unsafe conditions.
The Moncayo case sets a legal precedent for holding both the company as an entity itself and the company's employees responsible for construction site accidents.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr said, “Wilmer Cueva knowingly and repeatedly risked his workers’ lives in service of an ambitious construction schedule. In the face of multiple warnings about the perilous conditions he created at 9-19 Ninth Avenue, Cueva personally directed—and then declined to stop—his illegal excavation work, and Carlos Moncayo, a young man working to support his family, perished needlessly as a result.”
The project's general contractor, Harco Construction, was found guilty of manslaughter last June but refused to accept the court's punishment at sentencing. Harco maintained that Sky Materials was at fault and is currently appealing the court's somewhat lenient punishment of a $10,000 fine.
Harco's site supervisor, Alfonso Prestia, negotiated a plea deal in November and will serve probation and do community service.
Sky Materials and its owner, Michael Cholowsky of Manhasset, New York, are scheduled for January court. Sky Materials also faces separate charges for insurance fraud.
Vance also said, “I encourage construction workers to report unsafe working conditions anonymously and directly to our Office using WhatsApp at 646-712-0298. The endangerment of workers is a crime, and this Office won’t let it stand.”