A construction crane with a boom nearly 600 feet high killed a 38-year-old pedestrian when it crashed onto Worth Street on Friday, February 5. David Wichs was killed on his way to work and three others were injured by the falling crane.
Workers were attempting to secure the crane’s tower during a snowstorm with winds of about 20 mph., the New York Post reports. The collapse occurred just before 8:30 a.m.
Paul Capotosto, of the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, whose office is nearby, told the Post it felt like an earthquake and the building rattled and shook.
The crawler crane, which moves on caterpillar tracks, was being used to install generators and air-conditioning units atop 60 Hudson Street, the former Western Union building. The crane had been brought in on January 30. It was inspected on February 4 and the company received approval to extend the book to its full length, 565 feet, the New York Times reports. According to Mayor de Blasio, no work was being done on Friday morning because of weather conditions and the crew made the decision “to bring the crane down to the secure position.” But the Post reports that workers lost control, and the crane plummeted to the street below, hitting and damaging buildings as it fell. The crane’s hook crashed into an office at New York Law School. When it hit the ground, the fallen crane stretched two city blocks.
David Wichs, 38, was killed instantly, when he was pinned to the street beneath the crane, police and witnesses said. Lt. Jason O’Connor, a court officer at a nearby courthouse, rushed to the scene to offer assistance and he said Wichs showed no signs of life. The others injured were Thomas O’Brien, 73, who sustained a head injury when the crane smashed into the roof of his black Jeep, and Dawn Kojima, 45, who suffered a head laceration and leg injury. A firefighter responding to the accident also suffered minor injuries, according to the Post. O’Connor reports that O’Brien was “conscious and alert,” but was trapped in the Jeep by a piece of the crane’s boom. Witnesses noted that that the death and injury toll would likely have been far worse on a sunny day when many more people would have been on the street at that time.
More than 140 firefighters came to the scene of the collapse. The courthouse at 71 Thomas St. was evacuated as were a number of other buildings in the area. Officials shut off gas lines along Worth Street and the fire department and Con Edison scanned the scene for gas leaks every 15 minutes.
Kevin Reilly, 56, the crane operator, had three DWI arrests in the 1980s, but his Breathalyzer test after the collapse was clean. Police questioned him about the accident, the Post reports.
Buildings Department spokesman Joe Soldevere said the department has six crane inspectors and there is no inspection backlog. Because of the city’s building boom, the department plans to hire additional crane inspectors and other inspectors to bolster the de Blasio administration’s efforts to improve construction safety, according to the Times.
The Police Department and the Buildings Department have opened investigations into the collapse, the Times reports.