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Construction Worker's Wife Told Him to Quit 'Stupid' Job Days Before Death

By Gwynne Hogan | August 31, 2015 7:33am
 Angel Muñoz, 27, from Ecuador, died when he fell down an elevator shaft on Tuesday, police said.
Angel Muñoz
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ASTORIA — Days before construction worker Angel Muñoz plummeted to his death down an elevator shaft at a Hell's Kitchen worksite, he updated his Facebook status with selfies and a chilling message.

"Thanks to God and the Virgin, I finished another week of work," Muñoz, 27, wrote in Spanish on Aug. 21.

It prompted his wife, the mother of his three young children back in Ecuador, to urge him to quit.

"My dear, stop that stupid work already, it's dangerous my love, I love you," Munoz's wife wrote back.

"Nothing's going to happen my love," Muñoz responded. "I also love you very much."

Muñoz, who moved to New York City from the province of Cañar in Ecuador just over a year ago, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital after he fell four stories at a construction site at 577 Ninth Ave. on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Sources said he was not wearing a harness at the time of his death.

So far this year, eight people have died at construction sites around the city, including Carlos Moncayo, a Spanish-speaking worker who was "buried alive" at the site of the former Pastis restaurant in the Meatpacking District after his supervisors failed to warn him to get out before its collapse, according to prosecutors who brought charges in the case.

Muñoz’s father, who has lived in Queens for 25 years and who also works in construction, was working on another site when he got the call that something had happened to his son.

“When I got to the hospital he had already passed away,” Muñoz's father José said in Spanish. “We still don’t know how he fell, why, or what happened.

“One feels bitter with life when someone [close to you] dies. One becomes very sad. It hard can be hard, it’s hard for the whole family.”

Muñoz's family and friends gathered in a makeshift chapel in their Astoria basement on Thursday evening to remember him.

Muñoz was never planning to make New York City his home, relatives said. He was hoping to return to his wife and three young children, all under the age of 7.

“He didn’t think he was going to stay for very long,” said Muñoz’s uncle Daniel, 46, in Spanish.

Friends remembered Muñoz as a calm and respectful man who enjoyed bike-riding and playing volleyball on the weekends in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Muñoz had been working for Rovini Concrete Corp. for roughly eight months and liked the carpentry work he was doing, family members said.

Rovini Concrete Corp. was subcontracted by BRF Construction Corp., which is the general contractor at 577 Ninth Ave., according to Department of Building records. The site is slated to be a hotel and is also listed under the address 400 West 42nd St. and 400 Times Square, according to permits at the site and reports.

Bernard Friedman owns the BRF Construction Corp, according to business records and permits at the site. The name on the 2008 deed to the property, according to city records, is Robert Friedman. The two are brothers who also built the Lara, a rental building at 113 Nassau St. in the Financial District, according to reports.

The Friedmans own roughly 1,000 units in nearly 40 buildings throughout Manhattan, according to the Lara's website.

BRF Construction Corp. was hit with $10,000 fine this March when an inspector spotted a worker clambering up a 15- to 20-foot wall without a harness, according to the Department of Buildings records.

A spokeswoman for BRF declined to comment. Rovini Construction Corp. did not return multiple requests for comment and a lawyer for Robert Friedman did not immediately return a request for comment.