Offices Raided in New York City Crane Collapse

The offices of New York Crane and Equipment – the company involved in last Friday’s fatal <"">crane collapse on Manhattan’s upper East Side – were reportedly raided yesterday as part of a criminal probe into the tragedy.  According to the New York Times, boxes of documents and computers were removed from the premises.  Meanwhile, it was learned that a key part on the doomed crane – the turntable – had been rebuilt following its removal from another site last spring after a dangerous crack was discovered on it.  Investigators now believe that an inadequate weld on the rebuilt turntable is the cause of last Friday’s accident, in which the top of the crane broke away from the tower.

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.  The accident 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.

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.  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 Manhattan District Attorney’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the New York City crane collapse.  The investigation is centering on the turntable – a rotating apparatus that connects the operator’s cab and the boom to the crane tower. Prosecutors want to know if the Buildings Department ordered New York Crane to dispose of the part after it was deemed unsafe last spring.  If repairs were authorized, the investigation will focus on how the repairs were done, and whether the Buildings Department eventually signed off on them.

The turntable involved in Friday’s accident was damaged during construction on West 46th Street last May.  Bill J. Smith, president of claims and risk management for NationsBuilders Insurance Services, the crane company’s insurer, told the New York Times that New York Crane had sent the damaged turntable to a welding company in New Jersey for repair after the crack was discovered. The cracked part and other aging components were replaced, and the rebuilt turntable was welded back together, he said.  Smith, who examined the turntable after the accident, said that a visual inspection of the weld suggested that the weld had not adequately penetrated the metal to “marry” the two pieces of steel that it was supposed to hold together.

Smith was unable to tell The New York Times  whether the  Buildings Department knew that New York Crane was returning the repaired turntable to service or whether the city had authorized the company to do so.

New York Crane also owned the crane involved in a similar collapse this past March.  That accident, which occurred just a couple of miles away from the site of Friday’s crane collapse, killed seven people.  Following that tragedy, a 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.

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