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Worker Dies in 27-Story Fall at Financial District Site, NYPD Says

By  Danielle Barnes Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | September 21, 2017 10:55am | Updated on September 21, 2017 1:02pm

 Juan Chonillo, left, died in a fall from 161 Maiden Lane, officials said.
Juan Chonillo, left, died in a fall from 161 Maiden Lane, officials said.
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Facebook/Juan Chonillo and DNAinfo/Danielle Barnes

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A father of five fell 27 stories to his death at a luxury high-rise construction site near South Street Seaport he was working at on Thursday morning, officials said. 

Juan Chonillo, 43, was setting up a framework into which to pour concrete on the 29th floor of 161 Maiden Lane, near FDR Drive, when he plummeted to his death on a street-level scaffolding about 9:15 a.m., an NYPD spokeswoman said.

Chonillo was wearing a harness, but it hadn't been clipped onto anything, according to Department of Buildings officials.

Chonillo, who's from Ecuador, has five children and has worked construction in New York for about a decade, according to family who visited the scene.

"He was really dear to me. He was a great guy. I'm pretty brokenhearted," said Chonillo's nephew, Elias Rivera-Chonillo, 28.

Chonillo, of Corona, died at the scene, police said.

"We just came back from the morgue. I'm just trying to find out what's going on. We're destroyed," said Rivera-Chonillo.

"He was a good father. He would take care of his kids," the nephew said.

Those nearby heard the impact of the fall, they said.

"I didn't see the guy fall, but I heard the loud boom," said Paul James of the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 157.

"We saw complete commotion," James said

The Department of Buildings officials were investigating Chonillo's death.

Chonillo was a subcontractor of Pizzarotti IBC, which didn't immediately return a request for comment. 

FDNY officials evacuated some buildings north of the fall site "out of an abundance of caution," Currao said.

The build site is slated to become come a 60-story residential tower which developers have dubbed 1 Seaport, which will sport a spa, fitness center and studio apartments for $1,500,000.

A day before the fall, the DOB issued a partial stop-work order at the site Wednesday for workers using a crane without proper permits, according to the agency's website. The agency is also investigating Thursday's fall.

The site has been cited nine times since January, racking up $24,000 in fines, records show.

On Jan. 3, inspectors found that workers were operating in darkness because no one set up lighting, that exits were blocked by equipment and other unsafe condition, records show.

In April, inspectors cited them for debris strewn about the work area, records show.

On July 20, inspectors cited them for not properly illuminating cranes on the site, records show. 

James said he was at the site Thursday morning on behalf of his union, which was protesting the non-union site when the worker fell.

"These workers are underpaid, not unionized and they have no proper training," James said.

Chonillo's death comes a day after new construction safety regulations passed out of committee to be voted on by the entire City Council on Wednesday.

The rules, under Intro. 1447, would require better training for workers throughout the city and levy fines against owners and developers who fail to abide by that, supporters said.

"The measures before the City Council next week are common sense, essential steps towards beginning to change the culture in the [construction] industry. For too long, their safety has been sacrificed for the sake of expediency and profit," council members Jumaane Williams and Margaret Chin said in a press release.

"It is our sincere hope that this will help prevent future injuries and deaths like the heartbreaking incident we experienced today," the council members said.