Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hazard: Crane Collapse

About a month ago the category for Glenn & Dave's weekly photo challenge was "Hazard". So I dutifully ran around town snapping photos of things that looked hazardous to me. On my way to work I took a photo of this crane precariously situated over 51st and Second Avenue. Today, that crane came crashing down, breaking in two, flattening a small 4 story apartment building and damaging two larger ones, in one case shearing off a corner of the building and the apartments it contained. This is yet another construction accident in what seems like a record number this year. This particular site was cited for nine safety violations in January. Nine. So far, four people are reported dead due to this accident and 17 injured, some seriously.

Scott and I first got word of the collapse from our friend, The Flaming Curmudgeon, who lives in the neighborhood and witnessed the commotion minutes after the fact as emergency vehicles arrived on the scene. Check out his blog for a first-hand account and some haunting photos.

Below is another shot of the construction site in the distance as it appeared on February 7th, just two blocks south of the one in the foreground. As far as I know, Plaza Construction had nothing to do with the site of the crane collapse.

Beware the Ides of March.

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At 2:32 AM, Blogger Joe said...

I am a veteran of over 35 years in Tower Crane operating, climbing, etc. If the inspections showed no violation re: "tie off" impropriety it was because nothing was improper, I would suggest, but I do not know. I would say, though, that chances are the crane was erected according to specs. What took place, according to eye witnesses was a load was somehow dropped. This load took out a tie in. No doubt it would have been the upper tie in. Tie in is a horizontal brace fixing the crane's tower to the structure being erected. They are usually separated by several floors.. up to about 150'. As the tower crane is jumped, tie ins are added at the prescribed interval.

If the load that dropped landed on a tie in it was dropped from absolute minimum operating radius, since the tie ins are 'at' the tower. This luffing jib crane would have to have been boomed almost straight up. it's center of gravity was totally behind the tower, where the counterweights and machinery deck are. When the tie in was compromised it no doubt went over backward.

To suggest that neighbors looked up and spotted tie in problems last month, and that more inspections would have helped correct this scenario is not logical. The load being dropped is a huge no no in high rise const. work. That, I would suggest, caused the crane collapse. Inspectors know what they are looking at. The bracing was no doubt correct, but when eliminated, could not perform.

When climbing, these cranes add sections to the very top of the vert. tower (mast). it's like doing surgery on one's own belly. Very dangerous. Raising the mast section into position has the crane almost tipping over backward, as the counterweights in place to negate overturning forces at very far reaches are working against stability when boomed straight up. Losing the load affected the center of gravity wildly, shooting the cg even farther back for a split second, right at the time the tie in severed.

Don't say this shoddy work stuff unless its been diagnosed by review. Jobs of this scale really do commonly have so darned many citations it would amaze you. The best sites get written up. Nature of the beast. So huge, so many tools, light bulbs, fasteners. Thank God we have inspectors. We need more. God bless those poor guys who didn't make it.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Todd HellsKitchen said...

What are your favorite numbers?

At 3:33 AM, Blogger Maddog said...

I get a little nervous walking around the city a lot these days. Between cranes falling, and scaffolding collapsing it just seems like a dangerous place to live. Of course I knew that when I moved here, so please don't think I'm complaining.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger "Just David!" said...


At 5:13 PM, Blogger Donnie said...

This is why I love living in a suburban area...high-rise cranes aren't much of a problem.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger wondermachine said...

Wow. My hubby'd mentioned this story but I hadn't seen anything about this till now. Really frickin' scary. Amazed that no one in the buildings died with that level of destruction!
Thanks for the post and all the links.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Michael said...

You spoke too soon, Dan. They found the body of a woman in the building in addition to 5 construction workers who died. Very sad news indeed.


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