Morgenthau Slings Softly at City in Crane Case

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51st Street Crane Collapse Slings.jpg


The four deadly slings.

More people were killed by the deadly crane collapse that fell last March on Manhattan's East Side (seven) than have so far been slain by Hamas rockets in Israel since the ceasefire ended last month (four). But prosecutors yesterday pinned the blame for the disaster on a single crane rigger and his company, and refused to point fingers at the city's failings at the deadly site.


Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the collapse resulted when William Rapetti, 48, insisted on using just four polyester slings -- including one that was so worn and damaged that it was visibly discolored -- to hold the huge hoist, instead of the eight mandated in the manufacturer's instructions.

 

"What I find most shocking here is that all the rules and regulations require the use of eight slings, and he failed to do so," said Morgenthau at a crowded noon press conference at his office. "These straps only cost $50 apiece. These lives were put at risk for failing to spend another $200." 

Investigators later discovered that one buildings inspector had submitted fake site inspection reports, and that another buildings department official had taken bribes. Morgenthau, however, refused to criticize the city's performance. "That wasn't part of this case," he said.   

 Rapetti was charged with seven counts of manslaughter in the second degree plus criminally negligible homicide. His company, Rapetti Rigging Services, Inc., was charged as well. The rigger faces up to 15 years in prison on the top count of the indictment.

The crane fell as it was being "jumped" to reach a greater height during the construction of a residential building at 303 East 51st Street that officials later admitted was larger than zoning rules permit. At the press conference, city investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said that the indictment and reforms implemented since the deadly collapse "drive home a strong message of deterrence."

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