Crane Sinking Before Collapse


Two of those running the lift when a giant crane collapsed onto the partially completed Miller Park, killing three workers, say tracks on one side of the crane were sinking into the ground just before the accident.

The comments came in sworn depositions that were released by order of the state Court of Appeals as the result of a lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Attorneys for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, which is building the retractable roof for the ballpark, have opposed release of depositions in the civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the three accident victims' families.

Fred Flowers, an operator of the Big Blue crane when it crashed last July 14, said in his deposition that "ground failure," or the sinking of one side of the crane's tracks, was a key factor in the collapse.

Though some have suggested that winds gusting to more than 20 mph were a probable cause of the accident, Flowers said he did not think so. He said he would have raised objections to continuing with the lift if the crane's wind gauge had shown gusts exceeding 20 mph.

Alan Watts, a site supervisor at the time of the accident, said that while the load was being balanced and he was moving the crane on its tracks into position for the lift, "we were sinking."

He said he could tell because "cracks were opening up on the ground," but he kept his concern to himself in part because he was moving the crane away from that area onto new ground, a concrete pad created for the crane.

Milo Bengston, the original site supervisor for crane owner Neil F. Lampson Co. Inc., said Mitsubishi officials stopped him 10 or 12 times from ordering gravel to help stabilize the ground under the crane.

Bengston added that he would "sneak loads in" before he was removed as Lampson's supervisor.

Almost immediately after Watts replaced Bengston as supervisor, he said he noticed problems with the ground under the crane.

Flowers also said the load being lifted was 1.1 million pounds, or just over the crane's rated capacity.

The accident caused millions of dollars in damage and forced the scheduled opening of Miller Park, new home of the Milwaukee Brewers, to be pushed back from next April until April of 2001.

After the release Wednesday of deposition by five workers, Mitsubishi blocked the release of more by appealing to the state Supreme Court.

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