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East Side Access contractor chided for subway mishap that almost caused huge drill to pierce F train

Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction,

Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, at the new "50th Street Commons" pocket park at 48 E. 50th street in Manhattan on Tuesday, Sept., 16, 2014. Credit: Linda Rosier

An East Side Access project construction mishap that nearly resulted in a massive drill piercing a moving subway train was caused by the "stupidity" of the contracted workers on the job, the project's chief said Monday.

On the morning of Oct. 30, the workers, hired by contractor Tutor Perini Corp., were boring drainage holes into the ground near 23rd Street and 41st Avenue in Long Island City when they accidentally penetrated the ceiling of the subterranean F train tunnel, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu said at a Manhattan meeting Monday.

The 10-inch thick drill scraped the side of a passing train, missing by inches the passenger compartment. There were no injuries, and temporary repairs were made later that day.

In explaining the incident to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board members Monday, Horodniceanu called it a "double failure" on the part of the workers, who inexplicably "veered away" from their target by 12 feet, and Tutor Perini managers, who should have more closely monitored the work.

"The procedure says when you hit something, you're supposed to stop and find out what is going on . . . They did not stop. They just continued to go and they went through the roof of the tunnel," said Horodniceanu, adding that the workers had not properly flagged the drill locations. "It's very hard sometimes to battle stupidity. In this case, I don't know what else to call it."

A Tutor Perini spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Horodniceanu said that the Sylmar, California, company immediately responded to the incident with a "major reorganization" in the project's management that included bringing in top safety officials from California to oversee the work.

Tutor Perini is one of the largest contractors working on East Side Access, having been awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts for the project, which aims to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.

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