The Bronx district attorney’s office has decided to pursue criminal charges against an engineer whose failure to fully inspect a Bronx construction job was cited in a Fire Department report on the deaths of two firefighters, according to a person who has been briefed on the investigation.
Engineer Faces Perjury Charge After Fatal Bronx Fire in ’06
Firefighter Michael C. Reilly and his boss, Lt. Howard J. Carpluk Jr., were fighting a fire in a Walton Avenue discount store in August 2006 when rotting support columns gave way, the floor collapsed and they were trapped, a Fire Department report concluded.
The engineer’s lawyer said on Sunday that the Fire Department’s conclusions about the construction were wrong, and that there was no connection between the plans approved by his client, Jose D. Vargas, and the fatal collapse. The lawyer, Armando Montano, also said that in bringing criminal charges alleging that his client lied to investigators, prosecutors were taking advantage of the lapsed memory of an 82-year-old man.
The charges represent the most significant law enforcement action taken against a professional involved in a program that gives engineers and architects the authority to approve construction projects without city oversight.
The program is essentially an honor system in which the city has transferred many of its inspection responsibilities to architects and engineers and relies on their integrity to ensure building safety. But the city has found widespread abuses in recent years and is working to increase oversight and penalties.
Photo from NY Times