Watch CBS News

Crane Collapse In Tribeca Leaves 1 Dead, 3 Injured

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- One person was killed and at least three others were hurt after a crane collapsed in Tribeca Friday morning.

The collapse happened just before 8:30 a.m. on Worth Street near Church Street. Cell phone video captured the moment the massive crane fell to the street.

Officials said the person who was killed died on impact, and the three people who were injured were hit by falling debris.

The man who was killed was identified as David Wichs, 38, of the Upper West Side. He was killed instantly as he walked along Worth Street.

Police said Wichs was pronounced dead at the scene.

WATCH: Video Below Shows Moment Crane Collapses:

CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Watch as the crane collapses this morning in Lower Manhattan. One person was killed and three injured in the collapse. Read more here:

Posted by CBS New York on Friday, February 5, 2016

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, there was no hint of trouble in the moments before the crane came crashing down. The city had just inspected the crane yesterday because an extension was being added. The crane had been put up Jan. 30 to replace generators and air conditioning equipment on the roof of 60 Hudson St., CBS2's Lou Young repotred.

The 565-foot big rig, owned by Bay Crane of Long Island City, Queens and Hicksville, Long Island, and operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging, was being secured because of the weather at the time.

"They got to the work site this morning at 7, recognized the winds were in the 20 miles an hour-plus range and were proceeding to secure the crane, actually bring it down to a safe and secure position when this incident occurred," Mayor Bill de Blasio explained at the scene.

Construction workers were told to step inside because of the winds, and they watched from above. For some reason, the operator was having trouble getting the crane down.

"First attempt, they went about maybe 10 o'clock horizontal, and the wind started blowing, so they went back up with it," said witness Dan Vaughn. "On the second attempt to lower it, that's when it got out of control, and then it collapsed."

CBS2 obtained a photo of the wind meter inside the cab, showing a steady wind of 18 mph as the process began.

Tribeca Crane Collapse Wind Speed
CBS2 obtained a photo of the wind meter inside the cab of a crane that collapsed in Tribeca on Friday, Feb. 5, showing a steady wind of 18 mph as the process began. (Credit: CBS2)

The crew was trying to lower the arm into the safety position – an upside-down V – right over West Broadway.

Instead, the 56-year-old operator lost his battle to control the crane and it collapsed.

Witnesses said the crane slowly started to sway, picking up speed as it crashed down, CBS2's Steve Langford reported.

"It was kind of slow-mo and then boom," one man told 1010 WINS' Al Jones.

The cab, where the operator was sitting when the boom got away from him, ended up crashing to the ground. The cab hit the ground with enough force that it was flipped onto its roof, with the massive metal treads pointing to the sky.

The noise was horrifying.

"It was like bombs was going off," said witness Nicoli White.

"I couldn't believe it. The other day, I was just thinking I hope this doesn't fall and then it happened," said another man. "It bounced off two buildings and crushed every single car on that block."

On Worth Street, they first saw construction workers running, and then the crane clip the building at 57 Worth St. It turned out that the metal weight at the end of the crane ended up in the office. Tons of metal then slammed down at street level, resembling a massive double helix of DNA amid the falling masonry.

Video and photos from the scene showed mangled metal and debris strewn across at least two city blocks. Part of the crane could be seen wedged up against a building.

PHOTOS: Lower Manhattan Crane Collapse | VIDEOS: Deadly Crane Collapse | CHECK: Traffic & Transit

A crushed car with a trapped driver was left in the middle of the street. A whole row of parked cars were smashed on the south side of the block.

"It made a loud noise, and we all ran to help, All of us tried to run to help," said witness Teddy Johnson. "And then we saw a man trapped, but they wouldn't let us go any farther."

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, hours after the crane came down, scaffolding went up along Worth Street to safeguard against further debris falling from damaged building façades, or being blown off the roof of the New York Law School.

Photos taken inside the law school showed a two-ton hook and weight ball that came crashing through the ceiling, leaving a gaping hole, broken windows, and breaking a clock that is now frozen at the exact time of the collapse.

"The building shook," added New York Law School professor Frank Bress. "It felt like an earthquake."

The New York Law School was among the nearby buildings that were evacuated. Everyone has been ordered to stay away from the school until Monday.

"The other damage to the buildings was the parapets on two of the buildings next to the New York Law School. So those are in danger of collapsing right now, so we're cordoning off the street," Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler told reporters, including 1010 WINS' Samantha Liebman.

All gas service along Worth Street between West Broadway and Church Street was turned off. A 12-inch water main in the area of the crane has also been shut down to stop a leak. Con Edison crews responded to reports of a gas odor at 57 Worth St.

"We've sent crews down there and what they're doing is isolating some portions of the main in that area to prevent anything from happening," Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz told CBS2 earlier in the day.

There were also numerous street closures in the area and de Blasio said those who live or work there should expect to be cut off for several days.

Lower Manhattan Crane Collapse Impact Map
Click to enlarge map (Credit: Google maps)

"Certainly no earlier than Monday, possibly longer, before we can get things back to normal," he said.

Subways were also ordered to bypass the stops at Chambers and Franklin streets.

Meanwhile, emergency responders flooded the scene, and considering the scope of the damage, they found relatively few casualties.

'Very Sad Incident'

"Two guys ran to the right, one guy ran to the left, and I believe the guy who ran to the left is the guy that was killed," said witness Tony Menendez.

Two people were hospitalized – neither with life-threatening injuries.

Dawn Kojima, 45, was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital after the accident.

She was on her way to work on Worth Street Friday morning just getting a cup of coffee when the crane suddenly came crashing down, CBS2's Brian Conybeare reported. She needed nine staples in her head to close a gash, and she was also left with a severely bruised leg, but she was expected to recover.

Meanwhile, Thomas O'Brien, 73, was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center with a head laceration. O'Brien, of Easton, Massachusetts, was in New York visiting his daughter who lives in the city.

O'Brien and Kojima's conditions were described as "stable," police said.

The FDNY said the third person -- a firefighter -- suffered a minor injury during the rescue and is expected to recover.

"This is a very, very sad incident. We've lost a life," de Blasio said. "It was something of a miracle that there wasn't more impact and thank God that the impact on people wasn't worse."

De Blasio said workers were directing people away from the area as the crane was being lowered, a move he said may have prevented more people from being hurt.

"That crew, those construction workers, who in the normal course of their work as they were lowering the crane, were in fact keeping people away from the site and keeping traffic from proceeding down West Broadway and that is part of why this situation was not even worse," he said.

Some people were temporarily trapped inside their cars until being freed by first responders, Langford reported.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo posted a message on Twitter saying, "Thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those affected by the tragic crane collapse in Manhattan this morning."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, after inspecting the damage in Tribeca, ordered all 376 crawler cranes and 53 tower cranes operating in the city to be secured while investigators try to figure out precisely what went wrong in this case.

"I'm not going to minimize what happened here," the mayor said. "We have to figure out what happened and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again... There is going to be a full investigation to find out what went wrong and obviously, if it tells us anything that will lead to changes going forward," de Blasio said.

Witness: Crane Should Have Been Out Of Commission

Some who live and work in the area said they were concerned about the crane prior to the collapse.

"We saw that the crane was a little bent and it was still all the way up in the sky," one woman said. "The cable had snapped two days ago lifting something up so that crane should have been completely out of commission. Somehow, they left the crane all the way up and last night when we came by, the top of the crane was already sideways."

NYPD Sgt. Bob Ganley, vice president of the Sergeants' Benevolent Association, said their office is right in front of where the crane fell.

"Yesterday, I was speaking to somebody and I said, 'Wow, that would be devastating if that ever came down,'" Ganley told 1010 WINS.

The crane was being used for work at 60 Hudson St., the former Western Union Building, to replace generators and air conditioner units on the roof, Chandler said.

The crane went up on Jan. 30 and had full permits, officials said. It had been inspected as recently as Thursday because the boom was being extended, de Blasio said.

Inspectors found no problems with the crane, but Chandler said, "Obviously, it requires investigation in terms of the way this was done.''

Bay Crane representatives told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb they had no comment on the collapse.

A hard hat worker who was part of the crane crew spoke off camera to CBS2's Aiello. The crews take pride in doing a dangerous job safely, and in their heavily-regulated industry, they cannot do anything without city approval. The crew had city approval for all the work it was doing on Friday.

Crews will later unbolt what is left of the crane or even cut it to pieces with torches, and cart it out of Tribeca.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.