Crane operator has license suspended after crash

March 28, 2010 8:14:53 PM PDT
The operator of a crane that tilted and hit a 25-story building near Wall Street has had his license suspended. New York City Department of Buildings spokesman Tony Sclafani says inspectors determined Christopher Cosban didn't secure the mobile crane properly at the end of the workday Saturday. He says that contributed to the accident. He says a final determination on the cause is pending.

The crane hit a ledge near the top of the mixed-use building on Maiden Lane, three blocks from Wall Street, on Saturday evening.

The crane was lowered and dismantled Sunday.

No one was hurt in the city's latest crane accident, but for dozens who live on Maiden Lane, the heavy metal landed way too close for comfort.

Crews worked through the night to safely get the crane onto the ground. The area was evacuated because there was concern that if the crane fell, it would fall forward down Maiden Lane. Residents were allowed back into their homes early Sunday.

The nearly 250-foot crane was upright one minute Saturday, then it teetered and toppled over.

"Big loud bangs," witness Richard Spatafora said. "I couldn't imagine it could make that much noise."

Metal crunched on metal as the crane crashed right into 80 Maiden Lane near Wall Street.

"It sounded like thunder," Spatafora said. "I looked up and saw big chunks of stuff coming down."

Those chunks were the terra cotta facade cascading off the century-old, 25-story building, right onto the street below.

"I was able to duck, into like an alcove doorway," Spatafora said. "Went up a few steps and smushed myself in as much as I could."

Cops quickly blocked off several buildings in this mostly non-residential neighborhood. Still, 100 people had to leave their homes.

"When you heard that sound, rubbing against the building, everybody heard it in the street," another witness said. "And it was really scary."

Sparks flew as crews tried to cut loose the crane, owned by Hicksville-based Bay Crane. Workers had been using it Saturday, as they lifted air conditioning units onto the building's roof.

They'd planned the project for the weekend to minimize traffic disruption in the busy financial district, and it's a good thing they did. Maiden Lane, relatively quiet just after 7 p.m., when th crane slipped, lodging itself precariously over the street.

"I thought it was kind of strange," area resident Jesse Kimball said. "It occurred to me when I was walking by, I wondered why they had the base of the crane on this unconsolidated earth, instead of street level. So I'm really not surprised that they're having problems with it right now."

Crews fixed what may have been a hydrolics problem and lowered the crane just after 7:30 a.m. It was then collapsed and driven to a garage, where company officials will try to determine what went wrong.

The Department of Buildings continues to investigate the incident.