Fatal New York City Crane Collapse Sparks Criminal ProbeJun 2, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Last week's fatal New York City crane collapse has prompted the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to start a criminal investigation. According to The New York Times, the probe will try to determine if a part of the doomed crane had been seriously damaged last year and then inappropriately put back into service.
The New York City crane collapse - the second in the city in less than three months - occurred Friday morning at the height of rush hour on Manhattan's upper East Side. The crane involved in the accident was perched atop the Azure, a building currently under construction at 91st Street and 1st Avenue. The crane destroyed the penthouse and several other apartments at the Electra, an adjacent building. Witnesses told CNN the cab and the arm of the crane crashed more than 20 stories to the ground, smashing the penthouse on a building across the street and gouging chunks out of balconies all the way to the ground.
Two construction workers were killed in Friday's New York City crane collapse. The victims included the crane operator, Donald Leo, 30, and worker Ramadan Kurtaj, a 27-year-old immigrant from Kosovo who came to New York two years ago. He earned a living laying water and sewer lines, sending his savings home to his parents. Leo was to be married in three weeks. A third construction worker was seriously injured, and at least one pedestrian was treated for minor injuries.
The New York City Building Department is trying to determine the cause of the accident, which involved a 200 foot, 24-year-old Kodiak crane, a model now out of production. The crane had been inspected three times in the past month, but no violations had been issued. But inspectors did temporarily order one crane at the construction site to stop all work on April 23 for not having the proper permit and for operating the crane in an unsafe matter. Building Department records also said officials halted work after a crane on the site failed a “load test” on April 22. The crane passed a second test, however, the next day.
Following Friday's tragedy, the Buildings Department halted the erection of new cranes, dismantling of cranes in use or extending the height of any cranes, a process known as "jumping" throughout the city. The Buildings Department also suspended several crane operations in the city for the weekend and the agency said it would inspect the four other Kodiak cranes operating in the city.
The criminal probe into the New York City crane collapse is focusing on a possibly defective turntable - a rotating apparatus that connects the operator’s cab and the boom to the crane tower. According to source interviewed by The New York Times, investigators believe but were not certain that the turntable involved in Friday’s accident was damaged during construction on West 46th Street last year. In both jobs, the cranes were owned by the New York Crane and Equipment Corporation.
If the same turntable was used in both incidents, the criminal investigation will examine whether or not the Buildings Department ordered New York Crane to dispose of the part. If the Buildings Department gave the go-ahead to New York Crane to have the turntable repaired, the investigation will examine whether or not the repairs were done correctly.
If criminal investigation finds wrongdoing, it would be the second time this year that a fatal New York City crane collapse was linked to criminal liability. In March, a crane collapsed just two miles south of Friday's accident, killing seven people. Following that tragedy, city inspector - who allegedly had lied about inspecting the doomed crane in the weeks before the collapse - was arrested for falsifying records. The March crane collapse also led to the resignation of New York City Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.