Contractor Yanks Offer to Cover Funeral Costs for Dead Worker: Report

Winston Gellett, 67, was crushed to death when the Fort Greene building he was working on collapsed Sept. 10

Friday, Sep 21, 2012  |  Updated 2:21 PM EDT
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Worker Killed in BK Construction Collapse

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Worker Killed in BK Construction Collapse

The roof of a Brooklyn home under construction collapsed, killing one worker and injuring another. Tracie Strahan reports.
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The widow of a Brooklyn construction worker killed in a building collapse last week says the company has reneged on its promise to cover the funeral costs for her husband, according to a published report. 

Winston Gellett, 67, was crushed to death when the Fort Greene building he was working on collapsed Sept. 10.  He was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

The day of the collapse, Gellett's boss told his wife, Deanna Simms, 69, that the company would cover all the funeral costs, according to the Daily News.

Simms was relieved.

"Because of the manner of how he passed and the fact that his children are in Jamaica and couldn't be here, I wanted to be sure he was buried right -- with some dignity," she told the newspaper.

But when the company learned Simms had hired a lawyer, it yanked the offer. The contractor, Professional Grade Construction, contacted a family friend of Simms' who had been acting as the go-between to inform her of the news.

"It's definitely heartless," said Simms. "If I didn't have a lawyer, then they would have paid for it and swept [my husband's death] under the rug." 

Simms said she was forced to take out $11,500 in loans to cover the cost of a grave, a blue and white casket, a minister, musician, hearse and other items. 

The company's owner didn't return a call to the Daily News.

"At a time of terrible grief for this family, for the company to renege on their promise is unconscionable," lawyer Sanford Rubenstein said. 

No lawsuit has been filed and the accident is still being investigated by city officials, the News said.

Services for Gellett are Friday at 4 p.m. at the Interboro Funeral Home in Bushwick. Burial will take place Saturday at Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, N.J. 

Gellett was born in Jamaica and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s, Simms told the Daily News. He worked primarily in construction, and also at Kennedy Airport as a porter. 

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