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Grieving family of hardhat killed in Bronx building collapse searches for answers


A partial collapse of a building under renovation in the Bronx Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 killed a worker and injured five others, officials said. The four-story building on E. 208th St. near Stuben Ave. in Norwood began to crumble just before noon when a section of the third floor pancaked down onto the second floor. First responders pulled one worker from a pile of rubble but he could not be saved, officials said. Medics rendered aid to five other workers who managed to escape, officials said. (Tomas Gaston)

The grieving family of a construction worker killed in a Bronx building collapse said Wednesday they’re haunted by questions after the horrific accident.

More than 300 family members and friends packed into a Bronx pool hall and ballroom to mourn Segundo Huerta Wednesday night, as city Buildings Department and Department of Investigations officials continued the probe of Tuesday’s partial collapse on E. 208th St. that claimed the life of the hardworking father of five.

Huerta’s mother, Rosa Mayancela, wailed when she was led into a hall where those gathered were inconsolable, crying and hugging one another as they studied a framed photo of Huerta flanked by four candles and two bouquets of red roses and white lilies.

“He was a good man,” Segundo Huerta’s youngest brother, Eduardo Huerta, 28, told the Daily News outside his sibling’s home Wednesday night. "He was a family man and a great son to my mother. We have a lot of questions right now, but we don’t know who to ask.”

The doomed hardhat, 48, was trapped in the rubble when the third floor of a proposed four-story building on E. 208th St. near Stueben Ave. in Norwood pancaked onto the second floor just before noon. Huerta’s cousin, nephew and three friends were working with him, but they were able to escape the collapse.

His cousin, Manuel Geovanny Huerta, 21, who suffered a severe spinal injury, attended Wednesday’s vigil, limping as two men held him up. He and Huerta’s mother, who passed out from grief, both needed to be removed from the event by EMS medics.

Several relatives surrounded his wife, fanning her as she wept so we wouldn’t pass out as well.

“I lost my eldest brother. He is not here," Huerta’s brother, Jose, repeatedly told mourners as they offered their condolences.

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“I got a call from my nephew yesterday saying there was a small accident," Eduardo Huerta said. "I went there with the hope that it was a small injury, but then I got to the scene and saw the helicopter and the ambulances.”

The mourners wondered aloud who was scrutinizing the building’s owner, as they described Huerta as a beloved member of his community.

“See how many people are here? They are not all his family. They are not all his friends. They are people who knew him,” one mourner said.

Atin Batra, the owner of 94 E. 208th St. Partners LLC, which owns the building, ducked a reporter’s questions as he slipped into his Woodbury, N.Y. home with a briefcase Wednesday night.

A woman who described herself as his home’s interior designer answered the door and said Batra wasn’t planning to comment.

“The family was on vacation when they heard the news. They just reached the Bahamas and then took a flight right back. So it’s a lot for them to handle right now,” she said.

The Buildings Department has ordered the section of the building that collapsed be demolished and removed from the site for safety reasons, agency officials said.

“It is a truly hard situation, but everything will work itself out," Eduardo Huerta told The News. "We are five brothers, now four. We will do everything to get justice. He was a good man.”

With Catherina Gioino