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One dead after wall collapse in Sunset Park

Firefighters leave the scene of a fatal wall collapse in Sunset Park.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

One construction worker is dead after a wall collapsed in Sunset Park on Monday afternoon.

A nearly 10-foot-high brick retaining wall came tumbling down in the backyard of a home near 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue at around 1 pm on Dec. 28, trapping two private construction workers beneath it, according to authorities on the scene.

One of the victims was pronounced dead on site while the other was taken to NYU Langone-Brooklyn, according to FDNY. At a press conference following the collapse, EMS Chief Stephen Russo said the second victim was in “serious but critical” condition.

A third construction worker told members of the press he had taken a lunch break shortly before the collapse, sparing his life.

A construction worker also assigned to the site mourns at the scene of the collapse.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said Russo, who added that the Department of Buildings vacated the rear yards of 454 42nd St. and 453 43rd St. and said responding units “worked well together” to remove the debris and pull the two workers from the rubble.

Although a security perimeter had been established, authorities encouraged people to avoid the area as the investigation continued. As of almost 4 pm Monday, 42nd Street Third to Fifth Avenue remained closed to vehicular traffic.

A victim is removed from a fatal wall collapse near 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

FDNY Chief James Boylan said the structure came down at a 90 degree angle on top of the workers.

According Department of Buildings spokeswoman Grace Munns, the workers were hired by the owners of 453 43rd St. to perform masonry repair work on the retaining wall, and were granted access to the adjoining backyard of 454 42nd St. as part of the ongoing work.

Additionally, there were no DOB permits issued for any of the work at either property, Munns said, and the workers were excavating the length of the wall without adequate shoring, which resulted in the collapse.

Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Council’s committee on immigration, said Tuesday that all three workers assigned to the site came from Bangladesh — and that the rescued victim was already home recovering with family as of Dec. 29.

“While the DOB investigation is still ongoing, what is clear is that this is yet another tragic example of immigrant workers sent to work in construction sites without safety precautions and without the proper inspection by DOB,” the pol said. “Immigrant workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic performing essential duties to keep our city running. The least we can do is to hold accountable the contractors each time a worker dies due to their neglect of safety requirements as well as protect the rights of immigrant workers was New Yorkers. I will continue monitoring the investigations and supporting the families during this tragedy.”

A partial vacate order has been issued for both backyards and DOB’s investigation is ongoing.

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell

Update (Tuesday, 2:30 pm): This story has been updated to include additional information from the Department of Buildings and a formal statement from Councilman Carlos Menchaca.

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