One construction worker was killed and two were hospitalized after a collapse sent concrete slabs and bricks falling onto them at a work site on 130th Street Thursday.
A 1915 two-story warehouse was being demolished for a Columbia University expansion project, buildings department and FDNY officials said.
Workers on site had cut a structural beam, which is believed to have caused the site to become unstable, officials said. It wasn't immediately clear to officials whether the cut beam was an error or intentional as part of the work.
Two of the victims were near each other and a third was 50 feet away. It took firefighters 45 minutes to burrow a tunnel through the debris and rescue the third man, the FDNY said.
"Very heavy, very hazardous -- there were bricks above the rescue workers," a fire official said at the scene.
The man killed was identified as 69-year-old Juan Ruiz. His stunned family said Thursday that he was soon planning to retire and move to the Dominican Republic.
"We're still in shock about it -- we still can't believe it," said a nephew. "He was just a hardworking person, always."
The work site was run by the same subcontractor as an adjacent parcel of land where a worker died in an elevator shaft accident last year. After that accident, federal inspectors cited the company for two violations having two do with fall protection.
That project was also part of the Columbia University expansion.
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