July 13, 2018 |
The company overseeing a luxury Manhattan construction project where a worker fell 29 floors to his death pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday — as the victim’s sister sobbed in the gallery.
SSC High Rise admitted that its shoddy oversight created an unsafe environment and caused the death of worker Juan Chonillo Sept. 21, 2017, according to the Manhattan DA’s Office.
The prosecutor read a letter written by the victim’s distraught sister, Angela Chonillo, as she tearfully looked on.
“Nothing they do will give me back my brother or his children their father,” ADA Rachana Pathak read from the statement.
“He should not have died in that place, in that way. This was negligence committed by the people in charge.”
The letter continues, “I will always remember his smile now that he is with God.”
Prosecutors say a foreman at the Financial District site ordered employees to move a scaffolding platform while Chonillo and other workers were still on the structure in violation of building codes.
When the platform jammed, Chonillo, 44, unhooked his harness to try to fix it. But the structure began to violently shake, sending Chonillo tumbling to his death.
The father of five, who hailed from Ecuador, was a carpenter at 116 Maiden Lane, where luxury residential tower 1 Seaport was under construction.
SSC High Rise, a subcontractor building the concrete superstructure at the site, also copped to stealing more than $500,000 in wages from more than 50 workers and underreporting nearly $2 million in payroll to evade insurance payments, according to the DA’s office.
The company paid $842,000 in restitution and $10,000 fine for Chonillo’s death, officials said.
DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement that the penalty for the worker’s death was the maximum that could be levied against a company and advocated for higher fines.
“This is pennies on the dollar compared to the potential profits on a high-rise construction job in a booming real estate market,” Vance said. “…but meaningful, practical deterrence—in the form of higher corporate penalties for killing and maiming workers—is the only way that New York State can end these dangerous and unlawful practices.”