The owner of a Bedford-Stuyvesant construction company and his businesses have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges after a wall collapsed at an excavation site, killing one construction worker and injuring two others.
The deceased worker, Fernando Vanegaz, 18, suffered severe head trauma, lacerations to his head, broken legs and cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at the scene. A second worker suffered a fracture of the lumbar vertebra, a fractured hip and injury to his spine. He has undergone multiple surgeries and continues to have difficulty walking or engaging in physical activity. A third worker also suffered a lumbar vertebra fracture, a fractured nose and skull and orbital area, a crushed face and scalp, a fractured rib and other facial bone fractures. He had back surgery and continues to have difficulty with physical activity and suffers constant back pain.
Weiss stated that the materials were coming, and shortly thereafter lumber arrived. However, Weiss refused to allow them to shore up the wall with it, instead saying it was for formwork for the upcoming concrete pour and that he would bring lumber to shore up the wall the following day. He also allegedly told the workers they were working too slowly and ordered three workers, including the deceased, to work in the rear excavated pit. The wall of the rear adjacent building then collapsed onto the workers.
Furthermore, according to the indictment, Weiss failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage while employing seven construction workers at the site, then applied for coverage hours after the collapse. He also allegedly committed tax fraud by failing to report $75,000 in income on his state tax returns. Based on this unreported income he owed state taxes of $4,310 and unlawfully received a refund of $3,686. He thereby stole $7,996 from the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.