Concrete Slab Falls on Construction Worker, Killing Him

by Frank Rosario, Kirstan Conley and Daniel Prendergast

A construction worker performing excavation at a Manhattan job site was killed Tuesday when a massive slab of concrete from a neighboring building toppled over and crushed him, officials said.

The crew was removing the soil beneath the foundation at the site of a future hotel on West 37th Street near Eighth Avenue when the accident occurred at about 1:30 p.m.

Concrete supporting the foundation of a neighboring building came loose, crushing Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian, 27

John Frondelli, 55, who was on the fifth floor of that adjacent building, said he stuck his head out the window when he heard the screams of the workers.

“I looked out my window and I could see his arms poking out from underneath. I kinda wish I hadn’t looked out the window. It was a horrible sight,” Frondelli said, adding that the slab appeared to easily weigh several tons.

“Next thing I know, firemen are running through my building yelling at everyone to get out. It was frightening. Nobody knew what was going on.”

Another building resident said she had become accustomed to the loud sound of construction since work began at the site, but immediately knew something was wrong when she heard workers’ frantic cries Tuesday.

“Usually you hear construction workers yelling all the time,” said Lauren Bustos, 26. “This was different. This sounded really urgent and really pronounced.”

Fellow hardhats scrambled to lift the giant slab off the young Jersey City resident, but couldn’t move it.

Firefighters quickly showed up to free the trapped man, but it was too late.

Vasquez-Galian was pronounced dead at the scene.

“When we accessed the victim, we determined that it was a fatality,” said FDNY Chief Joseph Carlsen. “At that point, we were concerned that there may be other structural hazard.”

Officials ordered an evacuation of the neighboring building, fearing the collapse may have affected its stability. Building inspectors later determined it to be sound and allowed tenants to return.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said the hardhats were conducting a routine operation when the giant slab crushed the young laborer.

One other worker suffered only minor injuries and was treated at a near by hospital.

The construction site is the future home of a new hotel designed by famed architect Gene Kaufman. The work is being overseen by Cava Construction Company.

Neither could be reached for comment

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