Ceiling partly collapses on NY car dealership, killing construction worker; 3 others escape

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A car dealership’s ceiling partially collapsed as construction workers demolished one of its buildings Friday, killing a worker trapped by the rubble as three others scrambled to safety, officials said.

The collapse happened at around 8:15 a.m. at a Staten Island Ford dealership, where a new building was recently constructed and its predecessor is being taken down.

Four workers were inside when a roughly 30-by-40-foot piece of the mezzanine ceiling came tumbling down, uncontrolled, in the building under demolition, said a city official familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the early findings before a report is finalized.

Afterward, sheets of metal and other material were in a heap on the floor and wires dangled from a portion of a ceiling overhead, as seen in a photo tweeted by the Fire Department of New York.

“Half of the mezzanine level collapsed to the ground,” fire department Deputy Chief Pete Leicht said.

Three workers safely escaped, but “one, unfortunately, was caught under the debris,” Leicht said.

The man, Delfino Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal, was taken to a hospital in critical condition and was pronounced dead on arrival. Attempts to reach his family by phone Friday were unsuccessful.

A message left for a manager at the Dana Ford Lincoln dealership wasn’t immediately returned, and an email to its owner failed.

A woman hung up after answering a call to a construction company that has been working on the property. A call to an architecture firm that applied for the demolition permit wasn’t immediately returned.

The city Department of Buildings was investigating what caused the ceiling collapse.

Department records indicate the owner has been putting up an environmentally friendly building on the property over the last two years and a permit to demolish the old one was approved in September.


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz.