Former contractor agrees to leave industry, pay $50k fine after fatal Sunset Park trench collapse

first responders on scene after trench collapse
A former contractor will pay OSHA $50,000 and has agreed to leave the industry permanently after a fatal trench collapse.
File photo by Paul Martinka

A former New York City contractor agreed to leave the industry permanently and pay a significant as part of a settlement with the federal government after his negligence caused the death of an employee on a Sunset Park construction site in 2018. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu, owner of WSC Group LLC, will pay the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration a whopping $50,000 fine and will never work in construction again, OSHA announced on Aug. 15.

“The outcome in this investigation should remind all employers that the U.S. Department of Labor will pursue all available legal remedies and work cooperatively with other agencies to enforce laws designed to protect workers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in a statement.

In September 2018, 47-year-old Luis Almonte Sanchez was killed after being crushed by thousands of pounds of debris while working at a 39th Street site where WSC was responsible for demolition, excavation and foundation work.

The construction site at 39th Street in Sunset Park following the wall collapse that killed Luis Almonte Sanchez.
The construction site at 39th Street in Sunset Park following the wall collapse that killed Luis Almonte Sanchez. File photo courtesy of NYC DOI

In 2019, OSHA found that WSC Group “willfully failed to provide an adequate protective system for employees” and exposed workers to numerous hazards. 

The agency then issued a series of citations to WSC, which Liu contested. 

According to OSHA, the proceedings were put on hold while Liu underwent a separate criminal trial. Earlier this year, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Brooklyn Supreme Court, and faces up to 16 years in prison. 

During the trial, prosecutors claimed that Liu was aware of the dangers of the worksite, but refused to halt ongoing work, despite numerous warnings of the danger from workers and other property owners. According to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Liu was warned that a wall on the site was shifting and needed to be reinforced — but never ordered workers to make the necessary changes. 

Then, on Sept. 12, a wall collapsed — killing Sanchez. 

A foreman from WSC — Wilson Garcia Jr. — was also convicted of criminal mischief in direct relation to Sanchez’s death as he was responsible for evaluating any workplace hazards and to take the necessary corrective actions to prevent injury or death. City records show that WSC had received a number of violations related to workplace safety from the city’s Department of Buildings – many carrying fines of up to $5,000.

“This settlement affirms OSHA’s citations, which found that this employer knowingly failed to construct the trench protection system properly and did not use other safeguards that would have prevented a worker’s death in a cave-in,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson “It also confirms that neither WSC Group LLC nor its owner will ever engage in construction work again.”