Officials are still scrambling to discover the cause of a fatal crane accident in lower Manhattan on the morning of Friday, February 5. What was supposed to be a routine securing of the 565-foot crane turned into tragedy as the construction workers somehow lost control of the boom, and watched in disbelief as it plunged in a free fall, crashing into TriBeCa’s busy Worth Street. The crane collapse killed one man instantly and left at least three others with serious injuries. The deceased victim was identified as David Wichs, age 38.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says it’s nothing short of miraculous that more people weren’t harmed or killed during the accident, which took place shortly before 8:30 a.m. The crane lurched downward as workers attempted to secure the boom due to increasing winds, and in the process were directing pedestrians and motorists to stay off the street. Had the accident occurred during rush hour traffic, the death and injury toll would have been much higher.
Since the incident, disturbing footage of the crane collapse — captured by a worker on a nearby building – has been posted on various media outlets, including The Washington Post.
Investigations to determine cause of crane collapse
The damage from the crane collapse caused leaks in several gas and waterlines, though none of them reportedly reached dangerous levels. Some streets were kept closed after the accident as utility workers and fire officials checked gas levels in buildings.
“Friday’s incident obviously is a warning that we take very seriously,” Mayor de Blasio told The Washington Post, adding “there’s no building that is worth a person’s life.”
While New York City authorities are investigating why the crane fell, officials are implementing safety measures on other construction sites in the hopes of preventing similar accidents. De Blasio announced that the city’s 429 other crawler and tower cranes would be properly secured against wind gusts immediately, and that a series of other safety changes would soon take effect.
Construction accidents spike, lax oversight questioned
A recent New York Times investigation into the rise of construction accident fatalities in Manhattan has called into question lax building oversight after finding that “basic safety steps were not being taken to prevent workers from falling.”
New York City comptroller Scott M. Stringer says the Buildings Department is “sleeping on the job” and doesn’t adequately oversee crane safety.
A spokesperson for the Buildings Department told the New York Times that there was no inspection backlog and that the department plans to hire additional crane inspectors to help de Blasio’s efforts to advance construction safety.
Liability issues in crane collapses
Accidents caused by crane collapses and failures on construction sites may involve several potentially liable parties. However, New York’s labor statute 240, known as the “Scaffold Law,” holds all contractors, agents and owners responsible for protecting laborers from scaffolding, ladders and heavy hoisting equipment like tower cranes.
This strict liability even extends to cases where property owners have contracted work out to other companies, which were the circumstances in another deadly crane collapse (on E. 91st Street) back in 2008.
In any sort of construction site accident that results in traumatic injury or death, victims are encouraged to seek experienced legal counsel who can protect their best interests and seek fair compensation. Eisbrouch Marsh are highly credentialed personal injury attorneys serving New York and New Jersey. To schedule a free case evaluation, please call 201-342-5545.
- NY Times, Crane Collapse in Lower Manhattan Kills One Person http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/06/nyregion/crane-collapse-lower-manhattan.html
- Washington Post, New York City announces new safety measures for cranes after fatal collapse, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/02/08/new-york-city-announces-new-safety-measures-for-cranes-after-fatal-collapse/