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Chicago Scaffolding Operator Blamed

Mar 13, 2002 | AP

The contractor operating the scaffold on the John Hancock Center that collapsed in high winds and triggered a deadly accident violated manufacturer's specifications, a city official said.

Buildings Commissioner Mary Richardson-Lowry said Denver-based AMS Architectural Technologies did not follow specifications stating that the heavy rig should be secured to either the base or top of the office tower in bad weather.

"All indications are that (the scaffold) was not where it should have been when we have severe weather forecasted," she said Tuesday.

The scaffold fell Saturday and crushed two cars on Chestnut Street, killing Nanatta Cameron, 39, and Melissa Cook, 29, both of Chicago, and Jill Semplinski-Nelson, 27, of Olathe, Kan.

The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of up to 58 mph at a downtown airport around the time of the collapse. Forecasts issued the day before the collapse called for gusts of 45 mph.

A spokesman for AMS disputed the city's conclusion that the contractor is responsible.

"We believe this is a design issue, not an operational issue," Ray Hanania said. "We did everything to the letter."

Hanania said the scaffold was not being used and was docked Saturday at the 42nd floor of the building.

Richardson-Lowry said the city's Law Department is researching what penalties the city could levy for failure to follow a scaffold maker's specifications.

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