BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Daily News) — A construction worker was killed Tuesday when the steel skeleton of a Brooklyn condo complex collapsed — because of a boneheaded decision to pour concrete from the top down.
The Brighton Beach cave-in set the stage for a dramatic rescue operation by firefighters, who pulled three trapped hardhats from the rubble.
“Thank God! Thank God! I’m alive!” a worker screamed after one of the Bravest pried up a chunk of metal pinning him.
Rescuers freed another man by using a blowtorch to cut through the crumpled steel of the five-story unfinished building on Brighton Fifth St.
Five workers were taken to hospitals. One went into cardiac arrest and died later in the day.
A preliminary probe revealed the cause of the accident was improper pouring of fresh concrete — which is normally put down first on the lower floors to fortify a building’s base.
“What we believe happened today was that they started from the top and worked their way down,” Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said. “In the coming days, we expect to take some action against some of the parties when we know exactly what happened.”
A man who answered the phone at the contractor, SP&K Construction, wouldn’t talk. “I have no comment for you. Bye,” he said before hanging up.
Robert Approbato, 53, who works for Stillwell Ready Mix, said he was delivering his final load of concrete when he felt the ground shake.
“It was like metal and steel — thunder,” he said. “We were all moving as fast as we can. It just came right down. It buckled.”
The 2:30 p.m. collapse sent up a cloud of debris that brought neighbors running.
“It was such a very, very bad noise,” said 91-year-old Margaret Arcarola. “I didn’t know which door to run out. I thought it was falling on my house.”
Luis Santiago said a massive “Boom!” preceded a shower of metal. “Unbelievable,” he said of the destruction.
Firefighters from Ladder 149 knew the situation was serious as soon as they arrived. “When we turn in, cops are waving us in,” said Firefighter James Molinell.
“Workers are stuck, and we know right away we had to get to work. When we get up top, on the second floor, we see the victim pinned from the chest down.”
Firefighter Mike Egan used a pry bar to free the man, who seemed stunned he had survived.
“Thank you. Thank you,” he repeated.
Two workers were in serious but stable condition; two more were in stable condition at Lutheran Medical Center.
“I’m praying for them,” developer Sam Ruvinsky said, insisting he was unaware of how the concrete was poured.
“I’m not a contractor,” he said. “I don’t know anything about construction.”
The builders obtained a construction permit in July. There are three violations from 2008 and 2009 connected to the address for a shoddy fence around the site, but they were resolved.
On Saturday, a neighbor complained to the agency that crews were working outside normal hours. It wasn’t deemed an emergency.
“We normally route inspectors based on need,” LiMandri said. “We’re gonna look at response time.”
A Buildings Department spokesman said an agency worker accidentally deleted the after-hours complaint while typing a report of the collapse into the system.
With Brian Kates and Jonathan Lemire