Construction worker remembered after crane collapse

April 5, 2012 4:05:41 AM PDT
Investigators remain on the scene of a deadly crane collapse on Mahattan's West Side, trying to determine what caused the incident that killed one man and injured four others.

They are also working on the dangerous, delicate job of securing the crane to prevent further damage. Officials say the long boom of the crane was due to be inspected Thursday, after an inspection in January could not be completed because the rig was being operated.

The collapse killed 30-year-old Michael Simmermeyer, of Burlington, New Jersey.

The incident happened 60 feet below ground, along West 34th Street between 10th and 11th avenues, where the No. 7 subway line is being extended. A cable on the 170-foot crane snapped around 7:30 p.m., causing two sections of the crane to give way. One section was 80 feet long, while the other was 40 feet.

"It was extremely dangerous, because we had construction material that wasn't stable, and the crane," FDNY Deputy Chief Jackie Sullivan said.

Standing on a sidewalk, one construction laborer collapsed in tears into the arms of another worker. A laborer could be heard saying: "I can't take it."

"We do have the crime scene unit responding, to take pictures, document the scene," FDNY Deputy Chief James McNamara said. "We have no indications of any criminal wrongdoing or negligence."

Rescue workers then put their lives on the line to reach the men trapped by the collapse.

"We used a high-angle removal," FDNY Chief Bill Seelig said. "We set up a high point and used a high-angle rope system to lift them out of the pit, 60 feet up, put them down on the deck, and then transfer them to the ambulance."

Of the four workers who were injured, three were treated at the scene for minor injuries. The fourth was transported to Bellevue Hospital to be treated for a broken leg.

Colleagues say Simmermeyer was a steel worker whose father also worked at the site. They describe him as a good, hard-working guy.

"Good kid," Kevin Hayes said. "It's a shame. I've been in this business a long time, and I've seen it happen before. Not like this with the crane, but I've seen guys lose their lives on the job, and it's tragic."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released a statement Wednesday evening saying: "The MTA shares City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's concern for the safety of MTA construction sites. As a state public authority, the MTA already is subject to state building codes. The MTA is examining the Speaker's proposal to put all MTA construction activity under the inspection authority of the New York City Department of Buildings.

Crane contractors working on MTA construction projects are required to obtain annual operating certificates from the NYC Department of Buildings, and to post their current inspection certifications on the crane. The site of yesterday's incident is city-owned property, which also gives the NYC Department of Buildings jurisdiction to inspect cranes there. The two attached documents show the reports from the two most recent NYC Department of Buildings inspections of the Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. crane in operation during yesterday's incident.

"On July 14, 2011, the NYC Department of Buildings performed an annual inspection of the crane. Its written report indicated "No Deficiencies" at the top of the first page, and finished with the conclusion "No deficiencies found on crane at time of inspection.

"On January 10, 2012, the NYC Department of Buildings attempted to inspect the crane. This was done to change the month of the annual inspection cycle from July to February. The inspection report again indicated "No Deficiencies" at the top of the first page. However, because the crane was in operation during the inspection, a three-month extension was issued by the NYC Department of Buildings. The notation at the end of the form reads, "crane cannot be laid down to inspect boom section, safetys only checked, ok to issue 3 month extenstion" (sic). The NYC Department of Buildings informed the MTA that the follow-up inspection was scheduled to be completed tomorrow, April 5, 2012.

"The MTA has asked the NYC Department of Buildings to investigate the cause of the crane collapse and is cooperating fully with its investigation."

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