A preliminary investigation found that the crane toppled when a steel collar used to tie the crane to the side of the building fell as workers attempted to install it, damaging a lower steel collar that supported the crane. With the elimination of that support, the counter-weights at the top of the crane's tower caused it to fall, investigators said.
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As rescue workers dug through the rubble, the neighborhood just blocks from the U.N. struggled to return to normal. One lane of Second Avenue reopened to traffic, and many stores and bars were open for business.
The manager of an Irish bar noted how fortunate it was that the accident didn't happen Monday, when hundreds of thousands of people thronged nearby Fifth Avenue for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
"If it happened today there would be carnage," said Jamison's Pub manager Michael Mullooly, referring to the half dozen or so Irish bars in the neighborhood that typically attract large crowds on St. Patrick's Day.
Two people - a woman and a construction worker - were believed to be inside the four-story brick town house that was completely demolished when the crane came crashing down. The blocks around the construction site consist mostly of low-rise residential buildings but in recent years developers have erected a number of big condo towers, sparking concerns among residents about the pace of development.
The missing woman had come from Miami to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and to visit a friend who lived in the town house, said John LaGreco, owner of Fubar, a saloon on the ground floor of the town house. The woman was in her friend's second-floor apartment at the time of the accident and hasn't been heard from since, he said. Her friend was rescued.
Twenty-four others were injured, including 11 first responders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Eight people remained hospitalized, officials said.
Officials were investigating whether human or mechanical error led to the construction-site accident, which the mayor described as among the city's worst. City officials said the broken crane passed inspection Friday.
The accident occurred while workers were adding tower sections to extend the crane upwards, an operation known as "jumping" the crane, according to investigators with the Office of Emergency Management.
While crews were jumping the crane to the 18th floor, the steel collar, which wrapped around the mast of the crane and is used to tie the crane to the side of the building, fell as workers attempted to install it.
When the steel collar fell, it damaged a lower steel collar, installed at the 9th floor. The collar installed at the 9th floor served as a major anchor securing the tower crane to the building under construction.
With the elimination of the support provided by the steel collar at the 9th floor, the counter-weights at the top of the crane's tower caused the entire crane to topple southward.
The city had answered 38 complaints and issued more than a dozen violations in the past 27 months to the construction site where the 43-story high-rise condominium was going up. None of the violations was related to the crane, Bloomberg said.
On Sunday, the Reliance Construction Group, the project's contractor, released a statement expressing sympathy to the families of the dead and injured and said it was cooperating with government investigators.
Four of the workers killed in the accident were identified as Wayne Bleidner, 51, of Pelham; Brad Cohen, 54, of Farmingdale; Anthony Mazza, 39; and Aaron Stephens, 45, of New York City, police said Sunday. The three people whose bodies were found Monday had not yet been identified.
About 250 cranes operate in the city on any given day, and the accident shouldn't alarm New Yorkers living near high-rise construction sites, the mayor said. "This is a very tragic but also a very rare occurrence," he said.
But neighborhood residents and a Manhattan borough official raised concerns about city inspections at the apartment tower.
Retired ironworker Kerry Walker, who with his wife lived in the top-floor apartment of the four-story town house and left minutes before the collapse, had complained that the crane appeared dangerously unstable, his stepson said.
"He knows all about cranes and said this one had no braces, everything was too minimal," John Viscardi said. "He told one friend on the phone that 'if you don't hear from me, it's because the crane fell on my house."'
Latest Street Closures:
Remedial operations to secure the site continue in two primary locations. At 305 East 50th Street, DOB forensic engineers, crane experts, and inspectors continue to supervise the removal of the section of the crane's mast that landed on top of the 4-story building at 305 East 50th Street. As of early Monday, seven of the 10 pieces of the mast have been removed.
At 300 East 51st Street, the other work site, two mobile cranes, positioned at East 51st Street and 2nd Avenue, have lowered the crane's boom to the street level. Once the crane's boom was lowered, workers began dissembling into parts. This work was allowed to proceed after the bolts on the crane's mast were thoroughly analyzed by engineers and found to be intact. Operations will continue as the crane's mast is removed from the site and the debris pile is stabilized Some of these parts will be secured by the NYPD and sent to a testing laboratory for analysis as part of DOB's forensic investigation.
DOB has issued vacate orders for nearly 300 residential units in 17 buildings. All of the buildings remain vacated at this time. DOB will lift the vacate orders as soon as it is safe to do so. The Buildings Department will be able to better assess when tenants can safely return to their homes once more sections of crane and debris have been removed from site. Debris removal on the sidewalk in front of 305 East 50th Street has begun.
The 17 vacated buildings are:
Buildings forensic engineers have confirmed at least 7 buildings sustained damage during the accident:
300 East 51st Street / 956 2nd Avenue. This is a 19-story mixed use building with 119 dwelling units and commercial use at the street level. A small portion of the 13th and 14th (top floors) at the north east corner of the building have collapsed where the crane mast came in contact with the building.
301 East 50th Street / 944 2nd Avenue. This is a 6-story residential building with 20 dwelling units and commercial use at the street level. Portions of the roof and top two floors have collapsed due to the crane mast hitting this building.
305 East 50th Street. This was a 4-story mixed-use building with 4 dwelling units and commercial use at the street level. This building has completely collapsed.
306 East 50th Street. This is a 3-story mixed-use building with 3 dwelling units. A steel beam from the crane penetrated this building and caused damage to the middle of the building.
308 East 50th Street. This is a 5-story residential building with 3 dwelling units. The same steel beam that damaged 306 East 50th Street from the crane penetrated this building and caused damage to the side the building.
311 East 50th Street. This is a 14-story residential building with 111 dwelling units. There are some small holes in the western foundation wall which is adjacent to 305 East 50th Street which are allowing water to seep into basement. At this time, DOB inspectors have not noted any structural damage to this building.
954 2nd Avenue. This is a 4-story mixed-use building with 6 residential units and commercial space at the street level. This rear of this building sustained damaged.
The NYC OEM's response to Crane Collaopse
The New York City Office of Emergency Management continues to coordinate the City's response to the crane collapse on Manhattan's East Side. OEM, along with the Department of Buildings (DOB), Fire Department (FDNY), Police Department (NYPD), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Mayor's Community Affairs Unit (CAU), American Red Cross in Greater New York, the Salvation Army and ConEdison are all operating on scene. Since the collapse, agencies have been working around the clock to search for victims, remove debris and dismantle the damaged crane.
OEM, CAU and the American Red Cross in Greater New York set up a Family Assistance Center immediately after the collapse. Evacuated residents can visit the center to register with the Red Cross, receive temporary shelter and speak with DOB personnel. The center was previously at the High School for Arts and Design, but has relocated to Saint Peter's Church at 619 Lexington Avenue. Hours of operation are from 9:00am to 9:00pm. To date, 113 residents have been seen at the center.
OEM and CAU worked with the NYPD, FDNY and Red Cross to rescue several pets from vacated apartments on Sunday. When residents registered at the Family Assistance Center, a list was compiled of trapped pets. As soon as the safety of emergency personnel could be assured, rescues were made.
Gas, electric, and water service has been interrupted to several properties because of the collapse. Service restoration remains a priority and will be done as soon as utility crews are allowed safe access to the collapse area.
Just hours after the collapse, the property owner released a statement.
"There are no words to describe the level of devastation we feel today as a result of this tragic event. Our heart and prayers are with the families of those who died in this horrible accident. We are also praying for a full recovery for the individuals who have been injured today. Our first priority is to support the police and fire rescue operation to ensure that all victims are accounted for and the site is rendered safe as quickly as possible.
We hired Reliance Construction Group (RCG) as our Construction Manager because not only do they have a strong reputation as quality builders, but also for their outstanding safety record. In addition, RCG has hired subcontractors of similar record and reputation. New York Crane, to the best of our knowledge, has earned a reputation as the pre-eminent crane company in the region.
We expect RCG and New York Crane to cooperate fully with any and all investigations into this tragic accident. We must find out why and how this happened as soon as possible."
Stay with Eyewitness News as we continue to bring you updates on the deadly crane collapse and the rescue operation underway.