A longtime Bronx mechanic is being charged with criminally negligent homicide for failing to comply with safety protocols when a free-falling elevator at a Mt. Eden apartment building fell six stories and crushed his less experienced co-worker in 2021.
On the morning of Feb. 18, 2021, mechanic Peter Milatz, 67, and apprentice mechanic Joseph Rosa, 25, were modernizing an elevator in the six-story 133 East Clarke Place apartment, replacing the steel-wire ropes that ran between the elevator cabin and the elevator counterweight.
According to the city’s Department of Investigations, Milatz allegedly instructed Rosa to head to the elevator pit where the elevator cabin was while he remained on the sixth floor. Rosa was able to secure the counterweight, but under Milatz’s orders, cut the ropes to the elevator cabin which plunged and crushed Rosa.
Investigators allege that Milatz failed to comply with safety procedures that would have suspended the chains of the elevator, thus engaging the elevator’s brakes and preventing the elevator from falling when Rosa cut the ropes.
Milatz is also accused of removing the elevator governor — which triggers the braking system on all elevators — two weeks earlier for a replacement. However, that replacement governor, the Bronx DA’s office said, did not fit properly and Milatz worked on the elevator without it.
The 133 East Clarke elevator had been consistently flagged by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) for months-long inoperability, missed inspections and was out of service for three weeks before Milatz and Rosa began working on it. The mechanics worked for Champion Elevator Corp., and were permitted by DOB in November 2020 for the modernization work.
Milatz’s indictment, coincidentally, coincides with Construction Safety Week.
A worker was fatally crushed by a free-falling elevator because his supervisor, an experienced mechanic, failed to follow the most basic safety protocols, as alleged in the indictment,” said New York City Department of Investigations Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber said. “This senseless tragedy was entirely preventable.”
Criminally negligent homicide carries a sentence of up to four years in state prison, according to state penal law. The Bronx Times reached out to the Bronx DA’s office and is awaiting a response.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.