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Trench cave-in death may require 3 separate trials, judge says

Carlos Moncayo, 22, an Ecuadorean worker, was crushed

Carlos Moncayo, 22, an Ecuadorean worker, was crushed to death in a trench collapse in Manhattan on April 6, 2015. Credit: Manhattan District Attorney

A Manhattan state judge said Tuesday it will likely take three separate trials to resolve manslaughter charges filed against two construction companies and their site supervisors in the death of an Ecuadorean immigrant worker in a trench cave-in last year in Manhattan.

Justice Thomas Farber ordered separate trials for general contractor Harco Construction LLC and superintendent Alfonso Prestia after they filed papers saying they might blame each other at trial for the death of Carlos Moncayo, 22.

Excavator Sky Materials Corp., the Calverton company that employed Moncayo, and its site foreman, Wilmer Cueva, are already slated for a separate trial over the collapse of the 14-foot trench at a planned Restoration Hardware site in the Meatpacking District

Prestia, according to court filings, may blame Cueva for dangerous conditions and say that Harco wouldn’t let him remove Cueva, while Harco said it may argue that Prestia had free rein to do what was needed for safety and blame him for not removing Cueva.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office opposed the request to split the case, but Farber said the prospect of “antagonistic” defenses required separate trials. He said Harco will go first, on May 16.

The charges in the case include reckless endangerment and criminally negligent homicide in addition to manslaughter.

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