Doomed Crane Had History of Malfunctions
The site supervisor for the lead contractor at the site of the 2008 midtown Manhattan crane crash testified today in the manslaughter trial of master rigger William Rapetti and revealed that the doomed crane had experienced a spate of problems starting three months before the accident.
Matthew Katkocin who was running the East 51s Street job site for Joy Contractors, Elizabeth, N.J., was asked to read from the daily work logs that he had taken, revealing a flurry of problems with the crane’s functioning between January 2008 and the collapse, which occurred on March 15.
According to the log, problems began early in the year when the Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order that lasted between Jan. 5-10. Katkocin said he did not remember the exact reason for the order, only that it was related to the crane.
The crane was again inoperable between Jan. 22-24 because of problems with its computer system.
The log indicated that the crane’s manufacturer, Favco, was supposed to send a technician from Texas on January 24, but instead of sending a person, the manufacturer sent a new joystick and other parts.
Prosecutor Deborah Hickey countered that the technician eventually “fixed” the problem on Feb. 16, 2008, an assertion unchallenged by the defense in the redirect. But Rapetti’s co-counsel, John Esposito, said after the hearing that the machine was “still showing problems” around March 7.
During his cross examination of another witness, Rapetti’s lead defense attorney, Aurthur Aidala said additional changes were made to the system before March 15 in order to cut costs by speeding up construction, but the operator of the crane was not informed that a smaller manipulation of the joystick would make it lift and lower faster. Aidala said this created an awkward sensation for the crane operator, similar to driving a malfunctioning car.
“You’re pushing on the pedal and the computer gives you another speed,” he said.
Katkocin’s testimony also revealed that he was, in fact, not at the site at the time of the collapse. Earlier in the week Aidala alleged that Katkocin and other Joy Contractors workers had congregated near a group of “revelers” hanging around down the block from the site as part of a St. Patrick’s Day-themed “bar crawl.”
Katkocin said that the group of “bar crawlers” was across the street from him on Second Avenue when the crane toppled. Although the defense has not directly accused him of drinking alcohol, Katkocin openly admitted he was consuming a beverage at the time, but that it was merely a cup of coffee.