NYC crane collapse kills 38-year-old Manhattan man

A massive construction crane collapsed in lower Manhattan during a swirling snowstorm on Friday, killing one person and crushing a line of parked cars in the first accident of its kind in New York City since 2008.

Fallen crane crushed a line of parked cars in normally-busy downtown area

Scenes of the damage done in Manhattan 1:10

A massive construction crane collapsed in lower Manhattan during a swirling snowstorm on Friday, killing one person and crushing a line of parked cars in the first accident of its kind in New York City since 2008.

Hundreds of emergency workers responded after the 172-metre-tall crane toppled at about 8:30 a.m. ET and flipped upside down, leaving the metal boom stretching along nearly two city blocks.

At the time, workers were lowering the crane in order to secure it as winds approached 40 kilometres per hour, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference.

Firefighters work at the scene of a crane collapse in lower Manhattan on Friday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident, which left one person dead, was 'very, very sad' but could have been much worse if workers hadn't redirected people away from the site while lowering the crane. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

It was not immediately known whether the winds played a role in the collapse. An investigation was underway, and the crane operator was being interviewed, de Blasio said.

One person was killed in the collapse, David Wiches, a 38-year-old Manhattan resident, police said. At least three other people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, with two taken to a hospital for head lacerations, officials said.

De Blasio said pedestrians were cleared from the streets before workers began to lower the crane, averting a potentially greater calamity during the morning rush.

"Thank God it was not worse," de Blasio said.

The "crawler crane" is among 376 that dot New York's skyline, performing construction work at the city's skyscrapers. City officials ordered all cranes to be shut down and secured due to the winds.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a briefing after a crane collapsed in the Tribeca section of Manhattan in New York on Friday. (Associated Press)

The crane was owned by Bay Crane, based in the New York City borough of Queens, and operated by Queens-based GTI, or Galasso Trucking.

A person who answered the phone at Bay Crane declined to comment. A Galasso representative could not be reached for comment.

The crane had been used since Jan. 30 at 60 Hudson Street, a New York City landmark once known as the Western Union building. Workers were replacing generators and air conditioning equipment on the roof, officials said.

The building houses data centres and is considered an important U.S. telecommunications hub for high-speed connections to Wall Street and the Internet.

De Blasio said building inspectors had visited the site on Thursday, checked the crane in advance of the project's next phase and found no problems.

'Sounded like a bomb'

Witnesses described a deafening boom as the crane crashed to the street, a few blocks from City Hall and other government buildings. The location of the collapse is about a kilometre from the World Trade Center site.

Nicholi White, 20, who works for online grocer Fresh Direct, said he was waiting to deliver boxes when he saw the crane fall.

"When the crane hit the ground, I heard a loud bang, it sounded like a bomb," he said. "One of the loudest sounds I heard in my life."

Four buildings were damaged, city officials said, adding that they were monitoring multiple gas leaks but that none had risen to dangerous levels.

The incident was the first crane collapse since 2008, when nine people died in two separate accidents, according to officials. Since then the city has introduced tougher rules for the crane industry.

In 2012, a construction crane partially collapsed on top of a nearly completed, 90-storey luxury apartment building during high winds brought by Superstorm Sandy, prompting fears it would crash to the ground.

Last May, a cable on a construction crane also owned by Bay Crane snapped at a high-rise office building in midtown Manhattan as it lifted an air conditioning unit. The unit plunged nearly 30 storeys, injuring 10 people, including two construction workers.


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