Fatal crane collapse in NYC under investigation

April 4, 2012 - 12:48 PM
APTOPIX Crane Accident

Fireman remove an injured man from the site of a crane collapse where construction is going on for the 7 line subway extension Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in New York. Fire officials say a crane collapse at a Manhattan construction site has injured two people. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's transit agency began inspecting cranes at its construction sites throughout the city the day after one collapsed in Manhattan, killing one worker and seriously injuring another.

The collapse happened Tuesday evening in a huge pit where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is building an extension of the No. 7 subway line beyond Times Square. It was the city's third fatal accident of its kind in four years.

The MTA said Wednesday that it had suspended all work at the site until further notice and was inspecting other cranes.

Police identified the killed worker as Michael Simermeyer, of Burlington, N.J. He was 30 and was working at the site for a subcontractor, J & E Industries. The crane was owned and operated by Yonkers Contracting Co., the MTA said.

One other person was hospitalized with a leg injury after the accident, according to the MTA. Three other people were treated for minor injuries.

The crane was set up on the second of three levels on the construction site on Manhattan's West Side, city officials said. Fire Department officials said the boom came apart in two pieces — one 80 feet long and the other 40 feet long.

The MTA said the investigation would be conducted by the city Department of Buildings and the police department.

Jack Sullivan, a deputy chief for the fire department's emergency medical services division, said it was possible one of the workers had been struck by the crane's boom. The crane operator and someone who worked with him were among those who were injured.

He described the removal of the workers from the construction site, about 60 feet below street level, as "extremely dangerous."

"We had construction material that wasn't stable," he said.

Dozens of first responders came to the accident site.

Standing on a sidewalk, one construction laborer collapsed in tears into the arms of another worker. One laborer said, "I can't take it."

Thomas Rushkin, a retired city police officer and private investigator, said he was on his way home when he saw emergency vehicles heading over and got a glance at the pieces of the crane.

"The arm is broken in half," he said, adding that it appeared that one part of the crane was on a level below the street.

Another witness, Kennon Murphy, of Charlotte, N.C., said he was on his way to the nearby Javits Convention Center when he heard "a big boom." He said of the crane: "We noticed it was down."

Crane safety came under close scrutiny in New York in 2008, when nine people were killed in two separate catastrophic collapses in Manhattan. The owner of one of those cranes is standing trial on manslaughter charges.

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Associated Press writer David B. Caruso contributed to this report.