Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Search Begins for Family of Worker Killed in Building Collapse
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
No one has come forward to claim the remains of a construction worker that died during a building collapse Monday. Winston Gillett marked his 67th birthday just days before he fell to his death at a job site in Fort Green, Brooklyn.
City officials said structural beams gave way after heavy material was delivered to the roof of the building.
Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James has been trying to help locate Gillett's family. "He represents countless, faceless number of individuals who work on these projects throughout the city of New York," James said. "This is the third fatality in my district in a year and a half and they were all non-union, non-skilled labor."
Gillett had previously worked for a construction company called TTNJ Community Based Organization. They were not involved in Monday's accident. Raynette McGhee was Gillett's supervisor at TTNJ. "He was a good guy. He was an older man that would still get out there and work hard," McGhee recalled. "At 67, you're supposed to retire and he was out there still trying." According to McGhee, Gillett was a laborer who would clean up and prep work sites. "Whatever you asked him to do, he always did it," she said.
Ellen Borakove from the city's medical examiner said Gillett died of multiple blunt impact injuries. "Crushed by building," was the official cause of death.
The 67-year-old was working at the site to build five four-story townhouses, called the Carlton Mews. City officials said the project had only one violation, which occurred during the excavation of the building next door to the one that collapsed. But the contractor, Professional Grade Construction, did have seven violations at a job site at 3007 Farragut Road, in Brooklyn. Several were for safety violations, including not installing guard rails. A partial stop work order was issued in April for inadequate use of hoisting equipment, and still remains in effect, according to the Buildings Department.
The federal Occupation, Safety and Health Administration also fined Professional Grade $4,000 for violations that include electric shock hazards and unguarded power tools at the Farragut site. OSHA is investigating Monday's accident and will determine whether safety violations contributed to the accident, which led to Gillett's death and injured two others.
Professional Grade, located in Brooklyn, did not respond to a request for comment.
James said if no one comes forward to claim Gillett's remains she will ask the contractor and owner of the property to pay for his funeral. "I would hope the owner and contractor would do that," she said.
Gillett is believed to be a Jamaican immigrant. The consulate has been informed of his death and is also searching for loved ones, according to James.
Borakove added Gillett would not be in danger of a city burial because the city knows people are actively seeking out his relatives. "There's no reason to rush it if we know people are looking," she said.