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Victim in New London stair collapse died of head injury

By Greg Smith

Published 10/23/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 10/24/2013 12:05 AM

New London — The owner of the apartment complex where a man fell to his death when a porch stairway collapsed Monday is the target of a lawsuit filed by a New London man who claims he suffered injuries when a stair tread broke at the complex several years ago, court records show.

Jonathan Deptulski, 32, of Uncasville, died Monday after falling an estimated 15 feet when a set of outside stairs collapsed between the second and third floor rear porches at Nutmeg Woods Apartments at 23 Hawthorne Drive North.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Wednesday ruled his death accidental, caused by a blunt impact injury to his head.

The sprawling complex is owned by Ansonia Acquisition I LLC, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed Sept. 6 by Raynaldo Elder of New London. The suit alleges that on Sept. 10, 2011, Elder was descending stairs at the rear of 158 Hawthorne Drive, also listed as Nutmeg Woods Apartments, when a stair tread broke and caused him to fall. It is unclear from the suit exactly where the stairs are located or if the building has a similar porch system to the one in Monday's collapse.

Pawcatuck attorney Raymond T. Trebisacci, who represents Elder, claims in the suit that among other things, the owners failed to inspect the stairs, failed to discover the defective and dangerous condition, and failed to maintain the stairs and allowed them to deteriorate.

"As a result, the plaintiff suffered injuries to his low back, left knee, left leg and left ankle, together with bruises and contusions about his body, all accompanied by associated physical pain and mental suffering," according to the suit.

The suit notes that while some of the injuries are permanent, some "may be an aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions."

Elder is seeking more than $15,000, which is the minimum claim needed to move the case above small claims court. The case is pending in New London Superior Court.

Trebisacci and a representative from Nutmeg Woods were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Monday's stairway collapse led to a temporary condemnation of the four apartments accessed by the damaged stairway and inspections of the porches throughout the complex by the city's building department and a structural engineer.

A representative from the building department has not returned calls seeking information about the department's findings.

On Tuesday, New London Building Official Kirk Kripas issued a written statement saying a corrective plan of action was put in place to ensure structural stability of stairs throughout the complex. Nutmeg Woods is "currently making the repairs according to the requirements of the structural engineer," according to the statement.

g.smith@theday.com

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