Crane Company Owner Turns Himself in to DA to Face Manslaughter Charges

By Nicole Bode on March 8, 2010 12:15pm | Updated on March 8, 2010 1:54pm

James Lomma leaves Manhattan court after being indicted on manslaughter charges March 8, 2010.
James Lomma leaves Manhattan court after being indicted on manslaughter charges March 8, 2010.
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DNAinfo/Shayna Jacobs

By Shayna Jacobs and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The owner of a construction company who oversaw two defective high-rise cranes that collapsed on the East Side in 2008, killing nine people, was indicted on manslaughter and other charges Monday.

James Lomma, the proprietor of New York Crane Company, turned himself in at Manhattan Supreme Court to face charges of manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment, prosecutors said.

Lomma was released on a $100,000 bail, but was allowed to leave the courthouse after his Monday afternoon arraignment. The construction executive must post bail by March 15.

New York Crane allegedly used a substandard turntable manufactured by a Chinese company at a bargain price of $20,000.

Lomma's company was warned by an employee of Shanghai-based RTR Bearing, that they were unqualified to make the part.

"We are afraid the weld technic we had is not good, because normally we didn't do like that," employee Joyce Wang wrote in broken English in an e-mail dated July 6, 2007. "And honest speaking we don't have confidence on this welding."

Lomma's company and a subsidiary company, J.F. Lomma, Inc., were also named in the indictment, as was former mechanic Tibor Varganyi, 63.

Varganyi was released on his own recognisance and both defendants were required to turn in their passports.

Lomma, 64, allegedly caused the deaths of two operators, Donald Leo, 30, and Ramaden Kurtaj, 27, by using cheap labor and ignoring dangerous warning signs, District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. said in a statement.

“This tragedy is particularly devastating because it could have been prevented,” Vance said.

"When safety is sacrificed for profit, the public bears the risk of harm. We cannot allow individuals and firms to conduct themselves in gross violation of applicable regulations and industry standards."

The two cranes that collapsed in 2008 include one at 333 E. 91st Street, where Leo and Kurtaj were killed, and another on E. 51st Street, which killed seven people.

Construction workers embrace as rescue crews work at the scene of a crane collapse on New York's Upper East Side on May 30, 2008.
Construction workers embrace as rescue crews work at the scene of a crane collapse on New York's Upper East Side on May 30, 2008.
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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Building inspector Edward Marquette has already been indicted for faking safety tests of the crane at E. 51st Street.

At the time of the deadly crane accidents, Lomma's company owned 11 of 25 high-rise cranes in the city.

Lomma reportedly hired a Chinese company to do a low-priced welding job on the crane that killed seven people on the Upper East Side.

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