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Construction worker killed in New York City building collapse

One construction worker was killed and another trapped for three hours when the interior of a building being demolished to make way for a luxury hotel collapsed in New York City.

The debris formed a V-shaped cavity when the building caved in and the worker was trapped at the bottom of the V - the most difficult place to extract someone because it is so unstable, fire officials said.

The worker was in a serious but stable condition after emergency crews using special tools dug him out. A doctor attended to him while he was in the rubble.

"The building is, of course, a very dangerous place to work," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

The collapse happened on Friday morning at a site on West 38th Street in Manhattan where workers have been demolishing two adjoining buildings, floor-by-floor, for several months. Of the 19 workers on site, 17 escaped uninjured.

It was not clear what caused the collapse, which happened in the smaller of the two buildings, a five-storey brick town house. The interior of the building was intact, and officials said there was no risk to the public.

Building officials said the company had all the necessary permits to demolish the site and had been cited for excessive debris on August 25 but nothing more serious. There was no stop-work order, though the engineer had requested a halt on Thursday until the building could be further shored up, officials said. It was not clear if that work was happening when the collapse occurred.

"We're committed to a full investigation of all the other facts related to this," said Rich Chandler, commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

According to buildings department records, the site is owned by Fortuna LLC. A woman who answered the phone at Fortuna Realty Group's office declined to comment and referred calls to Northeast Service Interiors, a demolition company. Northeast said its owners were at the site and could not immediately respond to a telephone call.

According to Fortuna's website, it acquired the property in late 2012 and was planning a 27-storey, 170-room luxury boutique hotel there.

Robert Bankston, a demolition contractor who formerly worked on the site, said the two neighbouring buildings were sound when the project began.

"It wasn't like the buildings were falling down," Mr Bankston said.

He said his company left the project about a month ago amid a financial disagreement with the general contractor.

At least 60 firefighters responded to the collapse. Captain Dominic Vertucci said it was a dangerous and prolonged rescue because of the fragile way the debris settled.

New York Police Department Sergeant Michael Edwards said the trapped worker was conscious and able to squeeze the hands of rescue crews, but he seemed to be in pain.

"He was co-operative," Sgt Edwards said. "He wasn't panicking."

Sgt Edwards and other crew members said they were relieved by the rescue.

"It's a feeling of elation," he said. "The rest of us want to get out without being stuck in the collapse as well."

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