Six construction workers suffered injuries when the Brooklyn building they were working in collapsed on Tuesday, October 17 at around 10:00 a.m. At least one of the workers was trapped for a while under the rubble while rescuers were called in to help, while four suffered serious injuries. The workers were in a townhouse on Park Place when the roof caved in. The brownstone collapse was one of two building failures in Brooklyn in recent weeks, highlighting some of the dangers of construction-related building collapses.
Cinder Blocks May Have Caused New York Building Collapse
Reports indicate that the roof collapsed under the weight of cinder blocks workers had placed on it. According to officials, the home had a metal barrier between the floors, but as the cinder fell from the roof, it pulled the metal barrier down, too.
“What we know right now is that a concentrated load of cinder blocks was placed on the roof level,” said FDNY Assistant Deputy Chief Wayne Cartwright. “It was too much weight in that area to be supported and it collapsed into the basement.”
All six workers, who were inside the building when it crumbled, survived their ordeal but the building collapse threw them from the second floor into the basement. Among the injuries were a compound leg fracture, a hip injury and lacerations. Wounded workers were taken to Kings County Hospital and New York Methodist Hospital. Three other workers were at the scene during the roof collapse, but did not suffer any injuries.
“It’s a miracle there wasn’t a death,” one police source told reporters.
No one was living in the home at the time of the cave-in.
Contractor Blames Crane Operator for Structural Collapse
Vladimir Uchen, the general contractor on the site, said the crane operator made a mistake while cinder blocks were unloaded on the roof.
“The driver from the [crane] made a little mistake and look what happened,” Uchen said. “He tried to take off the fork from the cinder block, and he took the fork and the cinder block together.”
Witnesses Describe Scene of Brooklyn Building Failure
Neighbors of the townhome that collapsed were evacuated and not allowed to return for the night until officials could evaluate the structural integrity of the adjoining homes. Gloria Spencer, who lived nearby, said she heard a loud boom as the cinder blocks crashed through the roof.
“[The workers were] shaking, maybe from the cold,” Spencer said. “The emergency services people were cutting their clothes to make sure there was no inside injuries.”
Norman Harrison called 911 after the brownstone collapsed.
Officials are now investigating the cause of the Brooklyn building failure, but a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings said they expected to issue multiple violations related to the roof collapse.
Building Collapses in Bedford-Stuyvesant
Meanwhile, two workers were injured when a four-story building in Bedford-Stuyvesant partially collapsed on Thursday, September 28. Officials attributed the collapse to large concrete blocks that fell from the main floor into the basement and onto the two men working there. Both workers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, though they were taken to the hospital for treatment. The building was also under construction at the time of the collapse, and the worksite could be closed for months now.
In a separate building collapse, the owner of a building company was charged with manslaughter and other offenses linked to the death of a worker in a 2015 Brooklyn building failure.
Safety at Construction Sites Woefully Inadequate
A 2015 report by The New York Times highlighted the risks construction workers are placed in while working on buildings in New York. According to the report, from 2013-2015, the number of workers hurt or killed in construction-related accidents increased dramatically, outpacing the increase in construction. The report concluded that the main cause for the increase in accidents that resulted in harm or death is that safety measures at the site are “woefully inadequate.”
From July 2014 to July 2015, 10 people died in construction-related accidents, almost double the yearly average from the four years before. During the same period, 324 construction workers were injured, an increase of 54 percent.
Furthermore, the New York Times found that many contractors involved in the accident had previously been cited for safety violations and many did not pay their penalties.
Although most of these incidents involved workers falling from heights, other accidents such as buildings collapsing have contributed to the accident count.