NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was anger in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday after a construction company owner was acquitted in a crane collapse that killed two workers on the Upper East Side.
James Lomma, the owner of New York Crane and Equipment, had nothing to say after a judge found him not guilty on all six counts, but the families of the two men killed had plenty to say, reported CBS 2’s John Slattery.
“It’s like this judge took a knife to our family’s heart by letting this man walk away today,” said relative Xhevahire Sinanaj.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports
Her cousin was 27-year-old Ramadan Kurtaj of Kosovo. Also killed in the May 2008 tragedy was the crane operator, Donald Leo. His mother said the verdict was disgraceful.
“I think he just gave the defendant a license to kill again,” Maria Leo said.
The accident happened when a crane on East 91st collapsed 200 feet, killing the two men. The prosecution said the crane had been damaged a year earlier at a different site and the collapse occurred because Lomma approved the use of a cheap, Chinese-made replacement part of inferior quality.
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell reports
In the non-jury trial, Judge Daniel Conviser found Lomma not guilty of manslaughter, and other charges, offering no reason for his decision, but apparently agreeing with Lomma’s lawyers, who said the part was fixed responsibly. That in turn put the blame on the crane operator, 30-year-old Donald Leo.
“It’s just another low blow. It’s putting more salt in our wounds. My son is not here to defend himself,” Maria Leo said.
“How much more proof do you need? How many more people need to die and be killed by these cranes?” Sinanaj said.
Members of the two families believe they were denied justice in criminal court and will now seek it in civil court. That one will happen before a jury.
Earlier this month, another crane collapsed in Manhattan, killing a worker.
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