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NEW YORK CITY-Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau on Monday indicted a tower crane rigger and his company in the March 2008 East Side construction site accident that resulted in seven deaths. That accident, together with a subsequent fatal tower crane incident in May, prompted the city’s Department of Buildings to issue new regulations last fall.

William Rapetti and his company, Rapetti Rigging Services–both of Massapequa Park, NY–have been indicted on multiple charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault, reckless endangerment and failure to file tax returns, according to Morgenthau’s office. The indictment alleges that Rapetti violated numerous provisions of the New York City Building Code, federal regulations and industry standards in the March 15, 2008 crane-jumping at 303 E. 51st St.

Crane-jumping is a standard procedure at construction sites in which sections are attached to the crane’s mast in order to increase its height. At issue, according to the indictment, was a failure to inspect the polyester slings used in the process; one of the slings had pre-existing damage, weakening its capacity.

Moreover, according to a release from Morgenthau’s office, all four slings had been tied to the crane in a knot called a “choke,” said to offer the weakest load-bearing capacity of the three standard knots used in this type of operation. The slings were also tied around sharp metal edges of the crane tower without any protective padding in violation of the building code. In addition, the indictment says that Rapetti failed to follow the crane manufacturer’s specifications that the collar should have been supported by eight slings rather than four. All four slings snapped, leading to the chain of events that ended with the crane’s collapse onto two apartment buildings.

Rapetti’s attorney, Arthur Aidala of Aidala & Bertuna, tells GlobeSt.com that his client “is determined to help clear his name and demonstrate that he and his company operated and supervised the site in a manner beyond reproach.” He adds that Rapetti “has agreed to offer his full assistance and expertise” to investigators in helping to determine “the actual cause or causes of the crane collapse that day.”

Aidala says that Rapetti and his company “have a long and distinguished record of excellence, safety and public service spanning decades.” In particular, Rapetti was hand-picked to lead crane operations during the search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after 9/11.

Last September, following the March crane collapse and a second fatal incident two months later, the DOB issued new regulations that construction industry leaders reportedly criticized as unrealistic. Among other requirements, the new rules say the construction manager/general contractor must coordinate a pre-jump safety meeting no more than 24 hours before each tower or climber crane jump, and must notify the DOB 48 hours in advance of any such meetings.

In a statement issued following Monday’s indictment, buildings commissioner Robert LiMandri says, “New York City’s crane standards are considered among the strictest in the nation, and following this tragic accident, the Buildings Department implemented new regulations over the crane industry, including mandatory training for every tower crane worker, banning the use of nylon slings unless the crane manufacturer specifically recommends their use and requiring the mandatory submission of detailed rigging plans, which must be signed by an engineer, before work can begin. Improper rigging operations led to this accident, and the department has since increased its enforcement over the industry, with crane inspectors issuing more than 400 stop-work orders in 2008–more than double the total issued during the previous year.”

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