The Tribeca Crane Collapse investigation continues to develop. Currently, reports maintain that investigators are continuing to work with the theory that the windy conditions that morning caused this tragedy. Investigators are hoping to remove the more than 650,000 pound crane from the crowded streets of Tribeca. To do so, they will cut this massive machine into as many as 35 smaller pieces. This will allow life in downtown Manhattan to feel like it has returned to normal. But, this accident should forever change what the word ‘normal’ means in the construction industry.
It appears that the normal way of doing things before this accident meant dealing with problems as they arose. In other words, reacting to problems that surface rather than being proactive. Safety supervisors at this construction site have access to weather reports and had to have appreciated the role that escalating winds could play during the use and operation of an enormous crawler crane. Keep in mind that they just increased the size of the boom on this crane to approximately 575 feet long. They did react to the weather conditions but only on the morning that the winds were rapidly picking up speed. Simply put, this should have been something that was on their plate the day before when the forecasts predicted high winds. Reducing the risk of this crane in a congested area at a time when the danger was not apparent is a far safer alternative then the path they chose. The path they chose placed construction workers, pedestrians, motorists, homes and businesses in jeopardy. Will things change moving forward?
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to implement changes in how the city and the construction industry deals with ‘mother nature.’ The mayor wants additional layers of planning and preparation when forecasts portend gusts of wind to exceed 20 miles an hour. Reports indicate that the winds reached on apex of 40 miles an hour just before the crane toppled. The Mayor’s proposal would require construction crews to safely dismantle a crane of this size the day before the high winds are expected to hit. These seem like common sense proposals. It makes you wonder, why were the officials entrusted with the safety of this job site not thinking along those lines the day before this accident? Block O’Toole & Murphy attorney Stephen Murphy was asked to appear and provide expert commentary on PIX 11 News to discuss the crane tragedy. Murphy questioned why the wind was not an anticipated event that safety officials planned and prepared for.
The investigators are still compiling data. Additional steps are being taken to put the pieces together on how and why this happened. When plane and car accidents are investigated we often here about a “black box.” A black box can detect the change in movement of a plane or car and enable investigators to reach vital conclusions about an accident. Cranes are equipped with something similar, a “movement recording computer.” This was removed from the crane by investigators with an expectation that it may shed some further light on how this accident happened. What they learn from this device may prove conclusive.
Other stories are hailing the efforts of the construction workers who managed to steer the falling crane away from buildings as it cascaded down onto the concrete jungle. Kevin Reilly, of Port Jefferson, a Crane operator, was credited with landing the plunging crane and saving many lives. The report, found in The New York Daily News, credits Reilly for battling the elevated winds, gusts which reached 40 mph, as he navigated the landing of the crane. His calm demeanor and coolness under pressure were credited by many. No doubt, Reilly’s efforts prevented this tragedy from being far worse.
Still, the tragedy included many innocent victims, none more tragic than David Wichs who was killed in the accident. His grieving widow, Rebecca Guttman, emotionally discussed her very personal loss in a moving eulogy, according to The New York Post. She described their life as a “fairy tale”, “a storybook romance” and called him “the kindest person (she) ever met.” Again, our thoughts and prayers remain with Ms. Guttman and all those who were close with Mr. Wichs.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm that is committed to fighting on behalf of construction workers and their families. Block O’Toole & Murphy will continue to follow this investigation and other stories involving worker safety.