A crane accident in NYC cost a construction worker, 30-year-old Michael Simermeyer of Burlington, N.J., his life Tuesday evening. The site of the accident is at the No. 7 train subway-extension for the West Side, at W. 34th Street and 11th Avenue. Apparently, the crane cable snapped and two gigantic long arms (the crane booms) – one 40 feet long and another 80 feet long – came tumbling down. Smoke billowed and hard hats went flying! ‘A roar was heard that sounded like thunder’ at approximately 7:20 PM.
One other worker sustained a broken leg and two others endured only minor injuries. The crane is owned by Yonkers Contracting Co. and is very old, 24-years-old to be exact. Since the crane was so old, it would probably need more frequent maintenance and inspection to assure it was operational. Just such an inspection was slated for today, April 5th. A cursory inspection occurred on January 10th, but the crane was too busy to halt its work.
Thus a follow up inspection had been scheduled, but it came two days too late. When sorting out the confusing world of regulating the construction business in NYC, it was the New York City Buildings Department who had the responsibility of inspecting the crane and checking to see if it was in proper working order. Problems with crane safety have cropped up many times before. In 2008, nine people were killed in two different crane accidents in New York.
I recall these accidents, broadcast on the news, that put the fear of God in pedestrians as they navigated the crowded streets of the Big Apple, where they had to gaze upwards when walking, not looking to the pavement as they raced to their chosen destinations. And while New Yorkers finally thought the coast was clear, we suddenly have another crane accident (after four years) that results in a fatality.
Some of the politics of how major project construction comes about is touched upon in a New York Times piece, Work Is Halted at Subway Site After Fatal Crane Collapse, by John Leland. I’ll link it for you, since I’m still trying to sort this out, and you’ll want to do the same, before applying blame to any one party specifically. Negligence was at work, but who are the culpable parties we might point a finger at?
One thing is clear to me; jurisdiction of this No. 7 construction site lies with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The city can’t tell the MTA how to run their business. Some want this to change, such as Christine C. Quinn, a City Council speaker, who believes NYC should play a role in construction oversight. I saw a film clip of Ms. Quinn speaking out on the local news, and her argument was persuasive.
The antiquated crane had passed a full inspection last July, but as a result of heavy usage, was due another complete inspection, which was scheduled for today, ironically. This is only speculation, but a good theory is that the crane cable became frayed and worn from heavy loads, until it finally snapped in two. One wonders how accident investigators will be able to prove the actual cause, since the crane booms are plopped down and broken on steel and concrete platforms?
Perhaps they have their ways of detection. For me, the sheer age of the crane, 24, is a signal that its days in the limelight were numbered. A young man has lost his life, who only began the job with J & E Industries (a subcontractor to Yonkers Contracting Co.) a few months prior. We anxiously await the outcome of an investigation; but by the time a report can be generated, we will have completely forgotten about the entire sordid affair!
M.T.A. Halts Work on Manhattan Subway Extension After a Crane Collapse – NYTimes.com