Company President Indicted in New York for Worker Deaths

Phil Minucci, president of Tri-State Scaffolding & Equipment Supplies Inc., was indicted Oct. 10 for five counts of manslaughter in the second degree and four counts of assault in the second degree following a criminal investigation of a workplace accident that claimed the lives of five workers and injured many others on Oct. 24, 2001.

The workers were part of a crew renovating a property at 210 Park Avenue South in Manhattan. Nesa Inc. was the general contractor on the project; Tri-State Scaffolding was hired by Nesa Inc. to build the scaffolding; and New Millennium was hired to perform the demolition and restoration work. The scaffolding at the project approximately 160 feet high from bottom baseplate to the top, collapsed at approximately 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2001, killing five employees and injuring 10 more. Approximately 300 police and fire rescuers responded to the collapse. Manuel Barrariso, 40; Ivan Pillacela, 30; Efrain Gonzalez, 26; Donato Conde, 19; and Cesar F. Tenesaca, 25, were killed in the collapse.

In April, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations against Tri-State and the two other contractors for improperly erected scaffolding and failure to train workers on the hazards of working with scaffolding. Tri-State Scaffolding received two willful and four serious violations, with a penalty of $146,600, for erection of a scaffold that violated scaffold safety rules; for erecting a scaffold not designed by a professional engineer; and other violations of scaffolding and worker protection rules.

"This indictment is a strong message to employers and employees alike that violations of worker protection laws will not be tolerated," said Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. "The deaths and injuries suffered by the workers in last October's incident were a preventable tragedy and a stark reminder that there are still dangerous workplaces in this country, including ones where Hispanic and other immigrant workers are employed. We are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that safety and health protections for all workers are vigorously enforced."

Department of Labor Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell noted that a "willful disregard for the safety and health of workers is an intolerable offense."

He said the Office of the Inspector General will assist the Department of Labor in "vigorously investigating and seeking the prosecution of employers and companies that blatantly place workers in harm's way."

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