Construction crane collapses in New York

Click to follow
The Independent US

A construction crane collapsed today in a residential Manhattan neighbourhood, smashing into a 23-story apartment building as it fell to the ground, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring two others.

It was the second deadly crane accident in 10 weeks in the city, which is undergoing a building boom. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the latest collapse was "unacceptable," and the city would investigate.

"What has happened is unacceptable and intolerable. Having said that, we do not know at the moment what happened or why," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference, adding that it appears the builders followed regulations.

At a news conference, he said one of the casualties was in the cab of the crane and a second was on the street. He said he didn't know about the third person and didn't say who was killed.

The mayor said seven buildings have been evacuated as a precaution following the collapse on the Upper East Side.

"The sound was like a thunder clap. Then, an earthquake," said Peter Barba, who lives on the seventh floor of the damaged building across the street from where workers were erecting a luxury apartment tower.

One body was brought out of the rubble at East 91st Street and First Avenue, placed on a stretcher and covered in a white sheet. A construction worker knelt over the stretcher, gently stroking the sheet.

It wasn't immediately clear whether there were additional fatalities.

Crews pulled others out of the wreckage, the Fire Department said. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Firefighters and rescue workers continued to search through the tangled wreckage.

A construction worker, Simeon Alexis, was taken to a hospital with his "chest slashed open," foreman Scott Bair said.

His eyes filled with tears, Bair said his own life was saved because he left to get an egg sandwich a block away just before the collapse. He said he ran to the construction site, took a roll call of his 40 workers and discovered Alexis was missing.

"Everyone was shook up and crying," he said. "These are some hardened men, but they were crying."

Bloomberg said the top part of the crane snapped off and fell against the building around 8am. Video from the scene showed the upper-floor balconies of the apartment building were severely damaged and a hole extended several stories down the side of the building.

Chaos enveloped the largely residential neighbourhood of town houses and apartment high-rises as dozens of emergency vehicles raced to the scene during the morning rush hour.

In the 15 March accident in the city, contractors building a 46-story condominium near the United Nations were trying to lengthen the crane when a steel support broke, killing seven people. A four-story town house was demolished and several other buildings were damaged.

A city inspector resigned after his arrest on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.

In April, the city's buildings commissioner resigned, under fire over a rising number of deadly construction accidents that have left more than 26 construction workers dead in the past year.

Since then, the city has added extra inspections at building sites and required that its staff be on hand whenever the towering cranes were raised higher, a process known as a jump. Those procedures are still being revised.