Seventh Body Found In NYC Crane Collapse

Rescue workers work at the scene of a crushed building on 50th Street near Second Avenue, March 15, 2008 in New York. A giant crane toppled over at a construction site and smashed into a block of residential buildings killing four people and setting off a scramble for survivors. AP Photo/Toykin Chin

The last of seven bodies has been pulled from the rubble at the site of a crane collapse in Manhattan.

Six construction workers and a Miami woman in town for St. Patrick's Day were killed Saturday when the crane broke away from an apartment tower under construction and toppled like a tree onto buildings as far as a block away. The last three bodies were found Monday.

The Miami woman was in a friend's apartment in the townhouse during the collapse.

Two dozen people also were injured in the accident.

The mayor called the collapse, at the construction site of a new high-rise condo building, one of the city's worst construction accidents.

The crane broke into pieces Saturday afternoon as it came loose from its supports, toppling across 51st Street and the buildings between there and 50th Street. One section that was lying on top of the remains of the town house jutted into 50th Street.

"I heard a big crash, and I saw dust immediately," said Maureen Shea, a 66-year-old retired banker who was lying in bed talking on the phone when she glanced out her window and saw bricks raining from the sky. "I thought the crane was coming in my window."

In addition to the woman and the two construction workers pulled from the wreckage Monday, the four other victims have been identified as construction workers Wayne Bleidner, 51, of Pelham; Brad Cohen; Anthony Mazza, 39; and Aaron Stephens, 45, of New York City, police said Sunday.

On Sunday, construction crews positioned a second crane to help remove pieces of the toppled structure and started removing piles of debris from the street.

The fallen crane had stood at least 19 stories high and was attached at various points to the side of a half-built apartment tower. The crane was to have been extended Saturday so workers could start work on a new level of the planned 43-story building, said an owner of the company that manages the construction site.

A piece of steel fell and sheared off one of the ties holding it to the building, causing the structure to detach and topple, said Stephen Kaplan, an owner of the Reliance Construction Group.

"It was an absolute freak accident," he said Saturday. "All the piece of steel had to do was fall slightly left or right, and nothing would have happened."

Kaplan said the company had subcontracted the work to different companies and was not in charge of the crane. There was no immediate response to calls and an e-mail seeking comment from the crane's owner, New York Crane & Equipment Corp.

Neighbors said they had complained to the city about the crane.

"I warned the Buildings Department on March 4 that it was not sufficiently braced against the building," said Bruce Silberblatt, a retired contractor and vice president of the Turtle Bay Neighborhood Association.

CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports that the city had answered at least 38 complaints since the high rise project began.

The city had issued 13 violations at the construction site in the past 27 months.

Solorzano reports that Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer is demanding change.

"We've had partial building collapses; we've had fires in buildings," said Stringer, "we've had cranes pummeling down shafts in buildings; we've had loss of life injuries. This incident is just the latest example of needless people dieing because we do not have proper safety protocols in this city."

CBS News affiliate WCBS-TV reports Stringer recommended Mayor Michael Bloomberg should form a multi-agency task force to inspect all major construction projects.

"It is unacceptable for the Department of Buildings to say yesterday that the 13 open violations on this construction site were ... business as usual," Stringer said. "We can't keep going on like this."

Bloomberg said Sunday that investigators were looking at either mechanical failure or "perhaps human error" as a possible cause of the accident.

"As far as we can tell, all procedures that were called for were being followed," the mayor added.

He said about 250 construction cranes are operating in the city, and he said the accident should not alarm people living near them.

"Do I think that you should worry if there's a crane across the street? No," the mayor said. "This is such a rare thing that I don't think we should worry about it."

Last month at a Donald Trump hotel-condo tower, a worker plummeted 40 stories to his death when a concrete form gave way. A month before that, a crane's nylon sling broke away and dropped seven tons of steel onto a construction trailer across from ground zero, injuring an architect.
  • CBSNews

Comments