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Defects found in collapsed crane's hoisting system

April 6, 2012 4:23:06 AM PDT
The New York City Department of Buildings says engineers have found defects in the hoisting system of the construction crane that crashed down at a Manhattan worksite, killing a worker.

The Buildings Department said Thursday that maintenance and operation of the crane prior to the accident has become the focus of their investigation. An official said poor maintenance and or improper handling of the crane may have contributed to the accident.

A 30-year-old laborer from New Jersey, identified as Michael Simmermeyer, was killed in the Tuesday accident at the site where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is building a No. 7 subway line extension.

The MTA said a Jan. 10 inspection by the Buildings Department could not be completed because the rig was in operation at the time. A follow-up had been scheduled for Thursday.

The incident happened 60 feet below ground, along West 34th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. A cable on the 170-foot crane snapped around 7:30 p.m., causing two sections of the crane to give way. One section was 80 feet long, while the other was 40 feet.

"It was extremely dangerous, because we had construction material that wasn't stable, and the crane," FDNY Deputy Chief Jackie Sullivan said.

Standing on a sidewalk, one construction laborer collapsed in tears into the arms of another worker. A laborer could be heard saying: "I can't take it."

"We do have the crime scene unit responding, to take pictures, document the scene," FDNY Deputy Chief James McNamara said. "We have no indications of any criminal wrongdoing or negligence."

Rescue workers then put their lives on the line to reach the men trapped by the collapse.

"We used a high-angle removal," FDNY Chief Bill Seelig said. "We set up a high point and used a high-angle rope system to lift them out of the pit, 60 feet up, put them down on the deck, and then transfer them to the ambulance."

Of the four workers who were injured, three were treated at the scene for minor injuries. The fourth was transported to Bellevue Hospital to be treated for a broken leg.

Colleagues say Simmermeyer was a steel worker whose father also worked at the site. They describe him as a good, hard-working guy.

"Good kid," Kevin Hayes said. "It's a shame. I've been in this business a long time, and I've seen it happen before. Not like this with the crane, but I've seen guys lose their lives on the job, and it's tragic."

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