DA: Rigger is Entirely Responsible for Crane Collapse That Killed Seven

By DNAinfo Staff on July 19, 2010 9:03pm

By Shayna Jacobs

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Construction boss William Rapetti is solely responsible for the deadly crane collapse on East 51st Street that killed seven people, permanently injured others and demolished an apartment building, prosecutors said in closing arguments Monday.

Rapetti, 49, was legally bound to ensure that the high-rise crane in Midtown East was properly fastened to the shell of a luxury apartment building under construction in March 2008, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Hickey said in closing arguments.

But instead of checking the condition of the $50 polyester straps that were supposed to secure the crane and replacing the shoddy ones, Rapetti was splitting his time between two jobs and passing off important responsibilities to employees who habitually cut corners, Hickey said.

"It would have been so easy to prevent this catastrophe," the ADA said.

But Rapetti and his attorneys argued that he is not to blame for the deadly crane collapse. They insisted Rapetti, who was charged with killing six of his own workers, was made a scapegoat in the investigation.

Rapetti's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, argued dozens of inspectors were supposed to have checked the site, including Department of Buildings inspector Edward Marquette, who was indicted in 2008 for lying about making safety inspections.

"What happened on that floor on that day happened so quickly that nobody really knows what happened," Aidala said.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Roger Hayes is expected to deliver his verdict on Thursday morning, following what will have been about a month of emotional testimony in Rapetti's bench trial.

Rapetti was charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault and a tax crime.

The crane rigger, whose family has attended his entire trial, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.