Engineer pleads guilty to Brooklyn worker’s death – but will likely avoid jail

Engineer pleads guilty to Brooklyn worker's death - but will likely avoid jail

A civil engineer pleaded guilty on Tuesday in connection with the death of a construction worker who was fatally buried after a retaining wall collapsed on a storm-hit construction site in Brooklyn in 2018.

But inspection engineer Paul Bailey is unlikely to see a jail sentence in the death of Luis Sánchez Almonte after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez agreed to drop a manslaughter charge as part of the plea deal. Bailey pleaded negligent homicide, a felony, and reckless second degree endangerment.

If Bailey goes with the terms of the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to parole with the prospect of community service while the crime charge is dismissed. In addition, Bailey will give up his license and state in court that he will no longer practice.

A Brooklyn grand jury indicted Bailey, contractor Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu, and foreman Wilson García two years ago after THE CITY uncovered OSH violations at the Sunset Park site.

One of the OSHA inspection reports showed that a contractor, Liu-affiliated WSC Group LLC, knew of an impending collapse amid a thundering rain, but failed to protect the workers.

The trial of Liu and García continues and they will be tried in court on December 20th. The district attorney’s office worked with the City Department of Investigation, the Department of Buildings and OSHA in the investigation into the murder.

Prosecutors said they found that Bailey and Liu refused to cease work after workers and neighboring landowners were repeatedly warned of dangerous conditions at the site. The case marked a rare criminal charge of a death related to the city’s deadliest industries, according to work safety advocates.

Luis Sánchez Almonte Facebook

Bailey, Liu, and García’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sánchez Almonte, a 47-year-old Dominican immigrant, “never stood a chance under these conditions,” Gonzalez said at a November 2019 press conference announcing the charges.

Ignored warnings

It took rescue workers more than 28 hours to recover the remains of Sánchez Almonte when the remains of Hurricane Florence poured over Brooklyn on September 12, 2018.

Three months earlier OSHA filed a lawsuit against the general contractor on site, WSC Group, for exposing an electrical panel, which resulted in a fine of $ 3,696.

The following year, the agency fined a total of $ 63,647 in connection with Sánchez Almonte’s death. One was the most serious category for “willful” breach of federal building safety regulations.

The 2019 grand jury indictment found that Baileys Engineering and WSC Group LLC, including Liu, “ignored clear warnings from surrounding property owners” that the retaining wall that crushed Sánchez Almonte was unstable – and that it was being “deliberately and recklessly.” still refused, “the respect.

Prosecutors alleged that Liu and García were both alerted by a neighbor that their garage and terrace had collapsed, but they had not stopped work or ordered the wall to be shored.

Sánchez Almonte’s nephew Andy Monsanto told THE CITY in 2019 that he was still reeling from his uncle’s untimely death: “Nobody was after him. He was just working. “

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announces charges against construction company operators in Sunset Park on manslaughter and other charges after a wall collapsed at an excavation site and killed a construction worker Luis Sánchez Almonte on November 21, 2019.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez showed a diagram of the construction site when he announced indictments in November 2019. Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit occupational safety group, said prosecuting contractors for worker deaths was unusual because it was often nearly impossible to prove a supervisor was on site knew of unsafe conditions before a death.

She added that Liu’s protocol to ignore a security inspector’s warning of breakdown is “rare” – and could lead to conviction.

“In general, we want such cases to arise and we want employers or site managers to be prosecuted if their decisions are found to be related to the death of the worker,” she added.

“In this case, they obviously had a pretty strong connection.”

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