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The man who operated the crane which crashed and killed seven people on March 15, 2008, has been exonerated. A judge in New York City has found William Rapetti not guilty of seven counts of manslaughter. Rapetti was operating the 300 foot crane when it crashed just over two years ago, killing and wounding dozens of people. Rapetti was the only person connected with the incident to face criminal charges.
The accident in occurred in March of 2008, when Rapetti's crane collapsed killing six workers on the construction site and a Floridian tourist, according to the New York Daily News. In the bench trial before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Roger Hayes, evidence was presented by prosecutors that the crane operator used too few slings to attach the 11,300-pound steel collar to beams used on the building under construction. One of the slings he used was allegedly damaged and it was that sling that tore, sending the collar to the ground. An inspector from OSHA gave evidence that Rapetti said he had not done the required inspection on the slings.
According to the Daily News, Rapetti's attorneys argued that to save time and money, the crane was not bolted into bedrock as most tower cranes are, according to the project engineer who testified for the defense. If it had been anchored, the defense said, the crane would not have toppled.
Testimony from injured victims was presented by both sides. One worker hurt in the collapse did not blame Rapetti. The crane was "a nightmare" in the weeks before the collapse, said John DellaPorta. "Nothing went smoothly."
Rapetti's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said he and his client had mixed feelings about the outcome. "Those guys who are not with us anymore walked into an ambush. So many corners were cut...that had nothing to do with Mr. Rapetti," he said about the workers who were killed in the accident.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. issued a statement, saying, in part, "While we respect the criminal justice process, we are extremely disappointed by the court's verdict.
This accident was one of two fatal crane collapses in 2008 that ended in court. The tragedies forced the resignation of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.
The Daily News reports that Rapetti is still facing civil lawsuits. In addition, at least 112 claims totaling $420 million are pending against the city.