A crane rigger has been found not guilty of manslaughter in connection with the deaths of seven people when a massive crane collapsed in Midtown in 2008.
The judge today acquitted William Rapetti and his rigging company of all criminal charges. Rapetti, who has maintained his innocence, had chosen to have the case heard by a judge and not a jury.
The towering rig came down on March 15, 2008 near a building on 303 E. 51st Street in what was one of the worst crane disasters in U.S history.
Rapetti was the only person to face criminal charges in the March 2008 disaster in midtown Manhattan.
Prosecutors say Rapetti did a recklessly inadequate job of securing the nearly 200-foot crane as it was being extended upward.
His defense lawyer says the 49-year-old rigger was scrupulous about safety, and he's questioning investigators' determination that several connection straps failed and caused the disaster.
The March 2008 collapse — and a second New York crane collapse that killed two people two months later — raised concerns about crane safety in the city and elsewhere. New York has since launched a slate of new crane regulations.
Rapetti was working on a rig was being extended upward to build higher floors when it abruptly came loose from the building and toppled over, crushing a brownstone and spewing debris as far as a block away.
Six construction workers and a suburban Miami woman visiting the city for the weekend were killed. Two dozen other people were hurt.
Prosecutors, city building officials and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the crane fell because the straps snapped while holding up a 6-ton piece of steel. It was part of an assembly used to tether the crane to the building under construction.
Rapetti used four straps — one badly worn — when the crane's manufacturer called for eight, and he didn't take steps to stop them from fraying as they were pulled against the crane's metal edges, prosecutors said.
Rapetti's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, has said the rigger adhered to industry know-how that differed from the manufacturer's directions and had every reason to be careful — Rapetti was standing on a beam that was being connected to the crane when it collapsed. Rapetti dived to safety but was seriously hurt, Aidala said.
Rapetti decided to have the case heard by a judge, rather than a jury.
Since the crane collapse, New York has hired more inspectors and expanded training requirements, among other safety initiatives.