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Tower crane erector to be charged with Manslaughter

New York prosecutors are expected to announce manslaughter charges today against the rigger who oversaw the climbing of the tower crane that collapsed, on March 15th last year, killing seven.

The rigger, William Rapetti, has also been charged with criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and second-degree assault for the accident, in which the crane fell across East 51st Street, demolishing one building and causing severe damage to another building on 50th street.

The charges — including seven counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide — are contained in an indictment that is due to be unsealed later today, Rapetti’s company, Rapetti Rigging Services, will also be charged. The information on the charges has been leaked to local newspapers in advance.

Rapetti, 48, is due to surrender to police today, according to his lawyer, Arthur L. Aidala, who pointed out that five of the seven people who died were friends and colleagues of his client.
Aidala said that he was confident that Rapetti, “an expert in the operation and rigging of tower cranes”, would be cleared. “He did nothing wrong, and operated at that site in a way that is beyond reproach.”

The indictment follows an investigation by the office of the Manhattan district attorney and will be the first criminal charges for the three Manhattan tower crane accidents last year.

The charges against Rapetti revolve around “reckless and negligent rigging practices,” which caused the failure of four nylon slings that were being used to hold and manoeuvre a tower tie-in collar into place on the crane as it was being raised.

It is also claimed that he failed to follow the crane manufacturer’s specification that the collar be supported by eight slings. One sling also had “substantial pre-existing damage, including cuts and severe dislocation” that would have been readily apparent if it had been properly inspected before use.

In September, federal regulators accused Rapetti Rigging Services of failing to inspect the slings, remove a defective sling from service, protect the slings and comply with the crane manufacturer’s specifications when raising or lowering the crane. Click here to see earlier reports

Rapetti had been cooperating with OSHA’s investigation, according to Aidala, who added that he came from a family of crane operators and had worked on the machines since he was a youth.


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