NYC crane collapse: Safety experts mull options to get crane down

(CBS News) Aconstruction crane remains dangling from the top of an unfinished luxury high rise 700 feet above midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. The crane partially collapsed due to high winds during superstorm Sandy. 

The collapse caused the evacuation of several city blocks and continues to block major traffic intersections for fear of falling debris.

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller reported that the crane was set to the "weather vane" position during the storm, typical protocol to allow the crane to turn in the direction of heavy wind, instead of snapping. The crane was one of several tower cranes throughout Manhattan, none of which were taken down due to the cost and time involved in such an action.

City officials anticipated potential construction accidents before the storm hit -- they issued a mandatory stop work order on all construction sites in the city and conducted surprise inspections on Friday, ahead of the storm. The site of the collapsed crane was inspected on Friday, just three days before the crane's boom snapped.

Construction safety expert Peter Amato, member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, said it is too early to know the exact cause of the collapse. "There could be multiple factors," he told Miller, "Human error, structural failure, weather conditions. In this case, based on the video I saw, it appears quite evident the most devastating factor...was the wind."

As city officials decide how to move forward and get the crane down, options include trying to get the boom, strapping it to the building and reopening the streets below as the contracting company builds a new crane to take the broken crane down. Alternately, the crane could be dismantled from the bottom or tied to the building and taken apart there. Miller reports that once city officials and the contracting company decide on a procedure, the process should take two to three days.

Since construction began at the 57th-Street site, there have been 110 complaints to the New York Buildings department, 21 of those have been in 2012 alone and seven of them have involved the crane. The most recent complaint was on September 21, for leaking oil. 

The contracting company overseeing the construction of the luxury apartment building is Lend Lease and while, according to Miller, the company has been the subject of several safety and integrity lawsuits in recent years, they have made reforms and New York City is considered to have strict construction standards.