HELL'S KITCHEN — A construction worker removing soil from underneath a building was crushed to death Tuesday afternoon when a slab of concrete from an adjacent building fell on top of him, authorities said.
The man, whose name and age were not immediately released, was working below ground level at 326 W. 37th St. with another man when a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of slab came undone from 320 W. 37th St. and crushed him, said Department of Buildings commissioner Rich Chandler at a press conference after the accident. The second man escaped with minor injuries.
He was pronounced at the scene, an FDNY spokeswoman said.
Responders evacuated 320 W. 37th St. while they investigated to see if there was any structural damage to the building.
Lauren Bustos, 26, who works in a private event space on the 11th floor of the building said she heard a commotion when the accident happened.
"I heard this guy yell something urgent," she said. "It was bone-chilling."
Moments later she heard emergency vehicles arrive and looked out of her building on the construction site.
"I saw a hand under a rock," she said.
Chandler said the slab could have become dislodged because of a process called a "cold joint," where two pieces of concrete are joined together.
"It's possible that the piece of concrete slab that fell wasn't appropriately attached to the piece of concrete above it."
The OEM also dispatched officials to the scene.
DOB records show that the construction site was inspected twice this year. In May, investigators looked over the building because construction to the lot was causing the building next door to shake.
Bustos confirmed that her building vibrated during construction.
Inspectors issued a stop-work order in August because building plans had not been followed, according to the DOB website.
FDNY Deputy Chief Joseph Carlsen said firefighters discovered the unidentified worker's body, but could not immediately remove it because of structural concerns until the DOB gave them approval.
"When something like this happens, its a tragedy." Carlsen said, "My heart goes out to the family."
Chandler said forensic engineers were on site, and his department would be investigating violations at the building site.
"We need to do further investigation."