The Family of Gregory Ecchevarria Sues for Wrongful Death
The horrific events that occurred on Broome Street on April 13, 2019 that caused the death of Gregory Ecchevarria are a possible lesson in the different protections that union workers get and non-union workers don't. The difference could be life and death.
Sarah Ramirez, Gregory Ecchevarria's fiance and the mother of their newborn son at the time of his death, at the war veteran's funeral in 2019. Ms. Ramirez said, "His death is not going to be just brushed under the carpet." In April 2021 the family of Mr. Ecchevarria sued for wrongful death.
Mr. Ecchevarria served as a tanker in Afghanistan and Iraq for 10 years before returning to the U.S. and a career in construction.
In the early morning hours of April 13, 2019, while working on a non-union construction site at 570 Broome Street in Manhattan, Gregory Ecchevarria, a 10-year veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, a father of 4 including a new-born, and a fiancé, was crushed to death by a 7,000-lb crane counterweight that came loose in the wind and rain and landed on him. Two years later, as they wait for results from an investigation by the New York City Department of Buildings, the family of Mr. Ecchevarria is suing for wrongful death.
“It’s very upsetting that this has taken so long,” said Mr. Echevarria’s cousin Jocelyn Ruiz, 31. “This was someone’s mistake. Gregory didn’t cause any of this to happen.”
The suit names as defendants the building owners Soho Broome Condos, LLC, project developer Agime Group, LLC, and contractor companies. They are being sued for unspecified damages.
Echevarria’s direct employer Cranes Express — which has a history of OSHA violations and another on-the-job death under similar windy conditions — is not named as a defendant in the case because of laws that prevent suits against employers in New York.
David Pereira was a colleague of Mr. Ecchevarria and was working next to him at the time of the accident. He also suffered serious head and back injuries escaping the huge weight, has sued KSK Construction and SOHO Broome Condos LLC. KSK in turn has sued United Crane and Rigging, which hired subcontractor Cranes Express.
Mr. Pereira testified during his deposition for the lawsuit that he and Mr. Echevarria pleaded with a Buildings Department inspector who was on site that day to shut the job down due to the awful weather. “I remember both of us asking him if there was any way for him to slow down or stop the job because of the weather conditions,” Mr. Pereira testified on March 30, 2020. “He said that he didn’t know if he had any power to do that.”
This conversation between the workers and the inspector illustrates one enormous difference between a union and a non-union job site. Unions employ shop stewards whose job it is to know the rules of the workplace and to represent the worker when they have an issue with an assignment or environment. The wind that day was gusting above acceptable crane operation limits. The driving rain severely limited visibility. If these men had a shop steward to appeal to rather than a DOB inspector, it seems highly likely they would have avoided injury and death.
As the DOB investigation uncovers the details of the accident, it becomes clearer than ever that Gregory Ecchevarria didn’t need to die that morning.
High winds and blinding rain caused the workers to ask for a stoppage. If they had a shop steward to appeal to, they might have avoided injury and death.
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