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Unlicensed contractor and grocery store owner indicted in connection to vendor’s elevator death

June 21, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The owner of an East Flatbush grocery store and an unlicensed contractor hired to install an elevator at the store have been indicted in connection to the death of a grocery bag vendor. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez identified the defendants as Kwan Yoon, 72, of Flushing; Jin Sung Cho, 76, of Staten Island; and KP Farm Market Corp. 

Yoon is charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter, and all three defendants are charged with one count of criminally negligent homicide. 

They were arraigned earlier this week before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and released without bail. They were ordered to return to court on Aug. 17, 2021. 

According to an investigation by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, on April 2, 2018, Young-Kil Sim, 62, a bag vendor, was crushed to death while delivering an order of grocery bags to KP Farm, a fruit and vegetable store located at 1887 Nostrand Ave., while using an illegally installed electrically-operated elevator in the basement. 

The indictment alleges that Cho, who owns the store, hired Yoon in 2016 to install a makeshift elevator at the site. The work was allegedly done without the permit that is required by the New York City Department of Buildings. 

It is also alleged that Cho did not use a licensed engineer or registered architect, nor a master electrician, to apply for a permit to install the elevator, as required. 

Yoon did not have a license to do any type of construction work, according to the charges, and the device he created did not have certain critical safeguards, specifically doors and brakes, in violation of city laws and national safety standards. 

These laws are meant to protect persons from one of the obvious dangers presented by these devices; that when the platform descends, it can crush someone who is in the shaft or threshold of the elevator. 

On the day of the incident, the investigation found, the victim went to the basement to make the delivery. A store worker pressed the call button to bring the platform to the basement level. The victim entered the shaft with a hand truck as there were no doors or gates to prevent him from doing so. Unbeknown to him, the platform was above him. It descended and crushed his head, killing him. 

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “An innocent man going about his daily life died tragically and unnecessarily because of an illegally and improperly installed elevator. This indictment is part of my steadfast commitment to ensuring safe workplaces and holding accountable those who would endanger workers.” 

Department of Investigation Commissioner Garnett said, “As this indictment shows, ignoring the city’s construction regulations can have profoundly tragic results and individuals who choose to disregard them will be held accountable. DOI was pleased to join the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the City Department of Buildings and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in this important investigation.” 

The case was jointly investigated by KCDA, the New York City Department of Investigation, the New York City Department of Buildings, and the Manhattan Area Office of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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