Video captures fatal crane collapse in Manhattan
A pedestrian was killed and three other people injured — two seriously — when a massive construction crane collapsed in Lower Manhattan on Friday morning while it was being lowered as a precaution due to the wind, officials said.
David Wichs, 38, of West 81st Street had been standing on the street when the crane crashed down on him, killing him, authorities said.
Crane collapse victim David Wichs with his wife, Rebecca, in an undated Facebook photo
A 45-year-old woman from New Jersey suffered a head laceration and leg injury and was taken to New York-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital.
A 73-year-old man suffered a head injury when the crane fell on his car. He was in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital.
Winds were about 20 mph Friday morning — nearing the crane’s maximum allowable wind speed of 25 mph — so a decision was made to secure the giant machine, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The crane — which is owned by Bay Crane and operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging Inc. — was brought to the site on Jan. 30 to replace air conditioners and generators on the roof of 60 Hudson St., which used to house Western Union, officials said.
With city building inspectors on hand, the boom of the crawler crane was extended to its maximum length of 565 feet at 6:20 a.m. Thursday to reach farther over the roof, he said.
Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said the inspectors found no problems with the crane, which had a maximum load capacity of 330 tons.
“But obviously, it requires investigation in terms of the way this was done,” he said.
There were few casualties because crews had been directing people away from the area between West Broadway and Church Street in Tribeca while the crane was being moved.
“Thank God we didn’t have more injuries and lose more people,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “It’s something of a miracle that there was not more of an impact.”
All 376 crawler cranes and 53 tower cranes in the city have been ordered secured immediately, he said.
It was unclear why the crane collapsed. Authorities were interviewing the operator.
The courthouse at 71 Thomas St., around the corner from the site of the collapse, was evacuated because of gas odors, a Manhattan Supreme Court official said.
Con Ed turned off gas in the area. The FDNY and Con Ed were scanning the area for gas leaks every 15 minutes. Only the people in the buildings affected by the collapse were evacuated.
Paul Capotosto, treasurer of the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, said he and two other board officers rushed out of their nearby office when they heard the thunderous collapse.
“When it came down, it felt like an earthquake. Our building rattled … shook,” he told The Post. “We started checking the cars to make sure nobody’s in them.
“We got to one of the cars, saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat, still conscious. He said he was OK.”
Capotosto, Bob Ganley and Vincent Vallelong found another injured man in the street who appeared to be unconscious and a woman who was leaning against a building, blood trickling from her forehead.
“We rendered some aid to her. It was a little bit of chaos in the street,” Capotosto said. “(The crane) came down and it crushed every car on the block. Thankfully there was only one person inside one of the cars.”
Three PBA cars were destroyed.
“As bad as it is, we lost a life out there, but it could have been worse. Because of the weather, there were not a lot of people out there,” he added.
The crane was marked with a logo for Bay Crane, the company involved in a collapse in Midtown last year that injured 10 people.
A person who answered the phone at Bay Crane declined comment, saying the company was still collecting information.
The 75-year-old, Long Island City-based company describes itself on its website as “New York’s leader in crane rental and specialized transportation solutions.”
Surrounding streets were closed. No. 1 subway trains were bypassing the Franklin Street and Chambers Street stations.
Responders were concerned that the crane might be electrified, sources said.
The incident is the latest in a series involving cranes in New York City.
In April 2015, a construction company boss was crushed to death when a malfunctioning crane collapsed on him at a Manhattan work site.
Trevor Loftus, 40, was checking his boom truck’s leaky hydraulic system just as a hose burst, causing the crane’s arm to collapse and pin him against the vehicle’s flatbed at 219 E. 44th St..
In 2008, a crane owned by self-described “King of Cranes” James Lomma fell onto a work site on East 91st Street, killing operator Donald Leo and worker Ramadan Kurtaj.
In July 2015, a Manhattan jury delivered a $48 million verdict against Lomma.
Several people described the frightening moments during and after the collapse, which affected 47 to 55 Worth St.
Tiffany H., owner of Balloon Saloon, a party store on West Broadway, said: “The building and the earth felt like it moved. I thought it was the Freedom Tower being attacked,” she said.
Daniel Suarez, 43, the super of 73 Worth St., said he had feared the crane would topple.
“Yesterday, the pitch of the crane didn’t look good. (When it was windy) it was shaking … I didn’t like the way it moved in the wind,” he said.
Suarez said a gas line ruptured in the incident and about 20 firefighters arrived to inspect his building.
“I’m worried my tenants are going to freak out. I’m worried gas is going to be cut off. I have heat and I run on gas,” he said.
Barbara Varas, 60, a health coach, was walking with her twin 9-year-olds at the time.
“As I was walking my children to school this morning, I heard something that sounded like an earthquake,” she said. “I’m surprised no more people got injured because this [crane] was amazingly huge.”
Varas described the conditions Friday morning as “very windy.”
“I knew something had happened with that crane, which we had seen the night before, kind of dangling already,” she said, referring to the uppermost section of the crane.
Chris Andrinopiupous, 38, an electrician working nearby, watched from the 38th floor of his building.
“It was coming down pretty slow, like they were lowering it, and then it started going faster. I thought they were trying to maybe get it down in one shot, but then the cab flipped over. … I thought, ‘I hope there are no pedestrians down there,’” Andrinopiupous said.
“They’re lucky if it fell onto the street. It could have gone straight through a building,” he added.
John Rizzo, 43, another electrician, said the crane was “going back and forth, I guess with the wind and snow. Then it went off to the left and I guess a cable must have broke. It pretty much smacked off the side of the buildings and then it came down.”
Rizzo said he saw a man under the fallen crane.
“He didn’t make it. They covered him up right away. There was another guy in a Jeep, but I think they got him out OK. It’s lucky this happened today. If it had been a nice day, there would have been bodies everywhere,” he said.