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Nylon Slings Eyed in New York City Crane Collapse

Mar 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The New York City crane collapse, which left seven people dead and destroyed much of two city blocks, may have been caused by the failure of nylon slings.  According to The New York Times, photographs supplied by a person who visited the scene of the New York City crane collapse shortly after the accident show two manual winches attached to two yellow nylon slings. The slings are ripped off and ragged at the ends. For investigators who arrived at the site after the accident, the ragged, broken slings immediately raised alarms, according to people involved in the recovery who spoke with The  New York Times.

The New York City crane collapse occurred on the east side of midtown Manhattan Saturday afternoon.  The crane was being used in the construction of a  43-story luxury apartment building.  The crane broke into pieces as it crashed down onto 51st street, not far from the United Nations Building.  Several buildings were damaged in the New York crane collapse, and residents in about 300 apartments in 17 buildings were evacuated.  There is no word yet on when the evacuees might be able to return.  

Four workers from the construction site were originally reported dead as a result of the New York City crane collapse, but another 3 bodies were pulled from the ruble yesterday.  Two of those recovered yesterday were also believed to be construction workers. The seventh victim was a woman visiting New York from Florida, police said.

The New York Times has reported that workers  were trying to install a massive square steel collar around the crane’s tower, at the 18th floor of the construction site. They were using a series of manual winches that appeared to have been hung from nylon slings attached to a higher portion of the tower. The collar was to have been attached to the building by steel struts to give the tower added stability.

The New York Times said it appears the collar, winches and slings broke free and fell, smashing into a second collar at the ninth floor and shearing it from the building before coming to rest on top of a third collar near the base. That destabilized the tower, and the weight of the crane’s cab pulled the tower down onto the buildings below.

According to one expert interviewed by The New York Times, photos of the ripped slings indicated that they might have failed.  Bradley D. Closson, president of Craft Forensic Services in Bonita, Calif., which investigates accidents involving cranes, said it appeared that one of the slings had torn and the other had pulled apart, possibly after weight shifted onto it as the first gave way.

Another expert, Paul S. Zorich, the chairman of the committee on crane and sling safety standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, told The New York Times that the ripped slings in the photo made it appear as though they could have been "grossly overloaded".

The New York City crane collapse ranks as one of the deadliest construction accidents in the city's recent history.  It has also raised concerns over the safety of other such cranes, which are frequent fixtures at construction sites around New York City.  To that end, New York City buildings commissioner, Patricia Lancaster, said she would begin a sweep of new inspections on the approximately 250 cranes in operation at construction sites around the city.  


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