A Staten Island mother of five was killed when a massive gravestone fell on her as she worked in a Graniteville cemetery, according to aa lawsuit.
Elvira Navarro, 53, was tending to graves at Baron Hirsch Cemetery on Oct. 28 when the fatal mishap occurred.
A 2,000-pound monument toppled over as Navarro worked alongside her son, Anthony Rosales, according to court papers and the family’s attorney, Joshua Skillman.
It’s unclear exactly how or where in the 80-acre cemetery the incident unfolded. Navarro and her son were both employed by a third party, hired to do work at the Staten Island burial ground, according to the lawsuit.
Navarro was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, where she died of her injuries the same day, Skillman said.
Navarro’s family has filed a negligence lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against the Baron Hirsch Cemetery Association, accusing it of failing to maintain the cemetery and ensuring that it was safe.
The family is seeking unspecified damages.
Established in 1899, the Jewish cemetery features about 500 plots, is home to many Holocaust survivors and has been the target of vandals for years, according to the Staten Island Advance.
“I’m devastated to hear that news,” said Rabbi Andrew Schultz, executive director of the Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries, or CAJAC, a group which helped clean up about four acres of the poison ivy-plagued cemetery about a decade ago.
“That’s what we worry about the most, as an organization. That is the greatest fear we have. That’s why in the work we do, one of the very first things we do is making sure the stones are secure,” he said of Navarro’s death.
Large gravestones can be a hazard for several reasons, including if their foundations are deteriorating, he noted.
“It could happen at even the best-maintained cemeteries; you will see stones that are leaning,” he said.
Among notables interred at Baron Hirsch are members of the powerful Newhouse publishing family; American theater producer Joseph Papp, who died in 1991; composer Elliot Willensky, and Grand Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner, who died in 1925 and whose grave still draws hundreds of visitors.
Deaths in cemeteries are not unheard of. A year ago, a Long Island cemetery worker was killed when the grave he was digging collapsed on him.
Rodwin Allicock, 42, was at the bottom of the 7-foot-deep grave at Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai when he was killed.