Even with his acquittal last year of criminal charges in the 2008 fatal collapse of a New York City tower crane, union master rigger William Rapetti likens the legal battle to regain his still-suspended city licenses to “double indemnity,” he says.
In transcripts just released of administrative law hearings held in December, lawyers for the city’s Dept. of Buildings pressed for the continued suspension of Rapetti’s rigging and crane-operating licenses, despite the non-jury ruling by a Manhattan Supreme Court judge that exonerated him of manslaughter charges in the collapse that killed seven.
Debra Herlica, Buildings Dept. attorney, argued that the trial judge’s skepticism of Rapetti’s culpability is irrelevant because the “charges that were brought forth in the criminal case are different than what they are today,” says the transcript. Two U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials in the New York region again testified, citing his failure to use appropriate synthetic slings to secure the 200-ft crane during a “jump,” or extension, according to the transcript.
But Rapetti’s attorneys again argued to Administrative Judge John Spooner that several factors played a role in the accident, including a faulty computer inside the crane, poorly welded tie-in beams, heavy winds on the day of the collapse, an absent department inspector and a crane base supported by friction rather than being bolted down.
“There were so many mistakes made in the planning, design, implementation and manufacturing of the crane by everyone else involved—except Mr. Rapetti,” said his attorney, Marianne Bertuna. She also claimed that department attorneys tried to intimidate a union rigger called to testify on Rapetti’s behalf. A department spokesperson declined to comment because proceedings still are pending.
With witness testimony ended, the two sides will submit written arguments to Spooner in early February, with oral arguments set for Feb. 18. “I can’t make a living like I used to,” Rapetti told ENR. “I’m losing so much time and money. … It’s just brutal.”