Criminal Investigation Begins on Fatal NYC Crane Collapse

In the aftermath of the tower crane collapse in New York City last Friday that killed two construction workers and seriously injured a third, the office of the Manhattan district attorney has opened a criminal investigation into the accident. That collapse also caused severe damage when it crashed into a 23-story apartment building across the street, at 354 E. 91st St., damaging 45 of 169 apartments units there. The specific allegation, according to a report in the New York Times, is that part of the Kodiak crane used at the site, on East 91st Street, had been damaged at another site last year and improperly put back into service at this site. The failure of the part in question, the turntable that connects the boom and the operator’s cab to the crane’s tower, is apparently the cause of the fatal accident. The crane that fell Friday was dismantled Saturday, and investigators were reportedly focusing on a possibly faulty welding job on the turnable. According to the Times, the building department issued stop-work orders at five construction sites where a total of eight Kodiak cranes were being used. New inspections, additional testing and a review of repair logs are to be undertaken. The crane that fell, and seven of the other eight, are owned by New York Crane and Equipment Corp.The Times report follows a statement Sunday by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (pictured) that the crane accident and one 40 blocks away on March 15 that killed seven people did not appear to be connected. The mayor stated that the contractor involved in the more recent accident, on East 91st Street, “had all permits in place.” The mayor also deflected criticism of the city’s building department, saying “I think it’s fair to say that they probably have prevented an enormous number of things that could have led to accidents.”CPN last Friday interviewed Kevin Tartaglione, senior vice president & COO for Bedminster, N.J.–based developer Advance Realty Group. Although he did not speculate on the accident’s possible causes, Tartaglione commented that in today’s development market, with contractors, developers and owners being increasingly pressured to deliver projects quickly and on budget, “usually the thing that falls by the wayside is safety.” On a national basis, construction safety problems seem to be creeping up in number and severity. According to ABC News in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that construction-related fatalities edged up from 1,131 in 2003 to 1,226 in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In other news related to the accident, a wake was held Sunday on Staten Island for Donald Leo, 30, one of the two workers killed in the incident. . The other worker killed at the accident was Ramadan Kurtaj, 27.