Wednesday, February 22, 2012

D.A.’s Crane Blame


One man’s greed cost two men’s lives, Manhattan prosecutors said yesterday of the millionaire construction magnate blamed for the 2008 fatal tower- crane collapse on East 91st Street.

 “A wealthy man was concerned about the bottom line and nothing else,” Assistant District Attorney Eli Cherkasky said in opening statements in the manslaughter trial of James Lomma, owner of New York Crane and Equipment, one of the northeast’s biggest owners of the behemoth cranes needed for high-rise construction.

As families for the tragedy’s two slain workers watched in tears from the crowded audience, prosecutors called Lomma an already-rich construction renegade who cut corners and dodged regulators on a critical repair so he could further grow his wealth.

“The weld was failing even before it left China,” Cherkasky told the judge who will decide Lomma’s case, referring to microscopic fissures in a bargain-basement, inadequately welded replacement bearing that cracked apart after only a month in service, sending the crane’s massive cab and boom plummeting 140 feet.

“It wasn’t a question of whether the weld would fail — it was a question of when,” Cherkasky said, blaming Lomma for putting the bearing in use although the Chinese manufacturers expressed initial doubts that they could handle the job, and had in fact sent over a faulty, literally unusable additional bearing for a second crane’s repair.

Lomma’s high-powered defense team promised they’ll show that the weld only cracked apart because the $50,000-a-month rental crane was being misused and overextended. The defense strategy — blaming some of the tragedy’s victims for the collapse — left victims’ relatives outraged.

“If he knew ahead of time that the crane could collapse, that’s as good as going in there and doing it himself,” Uka Kurtaj said angrily after the prosecution openings, speaking of his son, Ramadan, who was only 27 when the massive crane’s cab and boom plummeted onto him.

Yesterday’s most poignant moments came when the trial’s first witness, laborer Kenneth George Clark, told the judge that he heard “a god-awful noise,” and, realizing what it was and that he had nowhere to hide, simply lay down between a construction shanty and a wall and hoped for the best. “You don’t know where things are going to fall,” he explained. Finding himself still alive, he rushed to crane operator Donald Leo.

“First, I looked to see if there was anything I could do for Don.” he told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Convisor. “Unfortunately, there was not. [Leo was dead].”



  2. Forensic failure analysis will sink his defense & rightly should. This accident & the one at the WTC where a cable snapped & beams plunged 40-floors require some serious scrutiny by local inspectors, OSHA, Engineering Firms and the city's legal contingent. They better get it together before they kill someone else.

  3. God bless Donald Leo's family. Im amazed that NY Crane is allowed to send parts to Communist China for repair.Not suprising that another construction contractor cant get enough of that SLAVE LABOR.Dont forget guys these are the people who want 20% pay cuts.Just ask for the Union Label!!!


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