The Bronx district attorney said Peter Milatz was criminally negligent in failing to secure the elevator that plunged six stories and killed Joseph Rosa, 25.
A mechanic was charged with criminally negligent homicide on Tuesday in the death of an apprentice who was crushed when an elevator car plunged six stories during a maintenance operation.
Prosecutors said the mechanic, Peter Milatz, 67, did not follow proper safety procedures before or during the operation, which caused the elevator car to free-fall down its shaft and kill Joseph Rosa, 25, an apprentice, in February 2021.
“Jobs in this field can be extremely dangerous, and workers must be protected,” the Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, said in a statement.
Mr. Milatz was arraigned on Tuesday in Bronx Supreme Court before Justice George Villegas. Brian Joseph Sullivan, an attorney for Mr. Milatz, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
On the day of Mr. Rosa’s death, the two men were upgrading the elevator at East Clarke Place in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx by replacing the steel ropes that connected the elevator car with the counterweight, prosecutors said. Mr. Rosa was working in the pit at the bottom of the elevator shaft, and Mr. Milatz, a senior mechanic, was working on the sixth floor, where the elevator car was located.
The car fell down the shaft and killed Mr. Rosa after he secured the counterweight and used a saw to cut through the steel rope, at Mr. Milatz’s direction. That is a standard procedure that should not have resulted in anyone’s death, prosecutors said.
But an investigation conducted by the New York City Department of Investigation found that Mr. Milatz failed to follow safety procedures during the operation as well as in the weeks leading up to it. Taken together, those failures set the stage for routine maintenance to end in death.
“A worker was fatally crushed by a free-falling elevator because his supervisor, an experienced mechanic, failed to follow the most basic safety protocols,” said Jocelyn Strauber, the Department of Investigation commissioner, in a statement. “This senseless tragedy was entirely preventable.”
Investigators accused Mr. Milatz of not complying with a standard procedure that required him to suspend chains in the elevator shaft and engage the elevator’s brake before the steel rope was cut, a procedure referred to as “hanging” the car.
Investigators said they also found that Mr. Milatz removed a major safety feature from the elevator two weeks before the operation that killed Mr. Rosa and failed to replace it. That feature, called a governor, triggers the brake system on an elevator car in the event of an emergency.
Mr. Milatz didn’t replace it because the part he brought with him two weeks before Mr. Rosa’s death did not fit, prosecutors said. He left the elevator to function without that important safety feature for two weeks before Mr. Rosa’s death.
According to a study published in 2013 by the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, now called the Center for Construction Research and Training, roughly 30 people in the United States are killed by elevators and escalators each year.
The study said that an estimated 17,000 more people were seriously injured by both, although elevators were responsible for 90 percent of the deaths and 60 percent of the serious injuries. Most people killed by elevators were working inside elevator shafts on installation or maintenance projects, it said.
Liam Stack is a religion correspondent on the Metro desk, covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He was previously a political reporter based in New York and a Middle East correspondent based in Cairo. More about Liam Stack