NYC Crane Collapse Probe Focuses on Repair of Worn-Out Part

June 5, 2008

New York investigators are examining how a worn-out part was taken off a construction crane last year, rebuilt and installed on another crane, which collapsed last week in an accident that killed two workers.

A failed weld on the crane’s turntable, which helps the crane swivel and change direction, has been the focus of the city investigation into the accident that sent the top part of the 200-foot (61-meter) crane crashing down on a residential neighborhood Friday.

The turntable had been removed in May 2007 from a crane building a 43-story luxury condominium tower in Manhattan after a worker saw that it was cracked, a spokeswoman for the contractor said Tuesday.

The crane’s owner, New York Crane & Equipment Corp., had a welding company repair it, and then installed it earlier this year in the crane that collapsed, an insurer for New York Crane said.

The repaired turntable was twice inspected and tested before it was installed, said Bill J. Smith, president of claims and risk management for NationsBuilders Insurance Services. Company spokesman Scott Heathcote confirmed Smith’s account, which was reported in Tuesday’s New York Times.

The frequency of inspections that would have detected the cracked part and maintenance of the 24-year-old crane were factors experts cited as critical to the investigation. Manhattan prosecutors have launched a criminal probe and three other agencies are investigating the collapse, the city’s second deadly crane accident in 2 1/2 months.

The city’s Department of Buildings did not respond Tuesday to questions on whether it was aware the crane that collapsed had a repaired turntable from another site. The department also hasn’t answered questions about the crane’s maintenance history.

“These questions relate to matters that are under investigation” by the District Attorney’s office, the Department of Investigation and the Buildings Department, buildings spokeswoman Kate Lindquist said in an e-mail. “Responding to these questions at this time would interfere with those investigations. We will provide responsive information as soon as we can do so.”

New York Crane and its owner, James Lomma, haven’t returned telephone calls since the accident. A woman who answered the phone at the company Tuesday declined to comment and hung up.

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