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DA Hynes Announces Indictment in Fatal Building Collapse

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, and New York City Department of Buildings Acting Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced the indictment of William Lattarulo for his role in a construction collapse that killed a 30-year-old laborer, Lauro Ortega.

Lattarulo is charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Criminally Negligent Homicide, Two Counts of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree and Two counts of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree.

“If not for this defendant’s callous selfishness and complete disregard for the safety of his workers, Lauro Ortega would be alive today,” said District Attorney Hynes. “In his hasty attempt to cut corners and reduce his own expenses, William Lattarulo cost another man his life. I would like to thank Commissioner Gill Hearn and Commissioner LiMandri for their help in this case.”

“Today’s indictment serves as a warning that there are serious consequences for cutting corners by ignoring safety regulations,” said Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “We do not tolerate builders who prioritize expedient development over safe construction practices, and we will continue to hold them accountable for threatening New Yorkers’ safety.”

DOI Commissioner Gill Hearn said, “DOI’s investigation shows that by ignoring the building code William Lattarulo undermined the foundation of his building, caused the death of his worker and put other lives at risk. The harm he is charged with causing cannot be undone, but the indictment announced today demonstrates that anyone who acts so recklessly will be held accountable. I want to thank District Attorney Hynes for pursuing this important prosecution.”

On March 12, 2008, Lattarulo was having laundromat built on a vacant lot, at 791-793 Glenmore Ave., in East New York, which he owned. The adjacent building, which Lattarulo also owned, had a foundation that extended several feet below ground, but the laundromat’s basement would go down much deeper than the existing residential building next door.

The indictment charges that, despite repeated warnings from several people, including a consultant he was required to hire to inspect the work, Lattarulo failed to properly support the neighboring foundation, as the new building’s foundation was being dug. As a result of that failure, the indictment charges, Ortega, an undocumented immigrant earning $100 a day, was crushed when the building’s foundation buckled under its own, improperly supported weight and pressure from the earth beneath it.

The charges against Lattarulo stem from his lack of experience in construction, his failure to properly establish “underpinning”, his failure to hire someone with the proper expertise and experience in constructing underpinning, and his failure to build braces to support the underpins below the foundation wall of the adjacent building. Underpinning involves digging narrow trenches beneath a foundation – one at a time – building support walls, or “underpins”, from the bottoms of the trenches to the base of the foundation, and backfilling the trenches. It is essential that underpinnings be braced, because they are prone to buckling, under the weight of the building above them and pressure from the earth beneath the building.

(YWN Desk)

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