Crane Collapses and Catches Fire in Hell’s Kitchen

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

On Wednesday, July 26 just before 7:30 A.M., bystanders on Manhattan’s West Side beheld a terrifying sight: a crane on fire, forty-five stories high, issuing a thick black rope of smoke into the sky.

The crane, holding a construction worker, was stationed at 550 10th Avenue, a high rise building that’s intended to be a 54-story, mixed-use edifice, between West 41st and 42nd Streets—mere blocks from historic Times Square. Officials reported to both the New York Post and ABC 7 that the crane operator attempted unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire on his own and was, thankfully, able to evacuate the scene safely.

As NYPD and FDNY were on route to extinguish the fire, the boom of the crane (a long, fixed or hydraulic arm used to lift heavy objects, like palettes of bricks or constructed walls) collapsed, having been eroded by the flames, sending a 16-ton load of concrete crashing to the streets below, according to NBC New York. Sixteen tons, or about 32,000 pounds, is the equivalent of roughly thirty-two grand pianos in weight. More frightening still, part of the collapsing crane struck the building across the street before falling to the ground below, sending debris flying into the air. More than 200 firefighters responded to the scene where they were stationed at a nearby building, attacking the fire with water from below the crane and above it. FDNY Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer reported the fire “nearly extinguished” just before 9 A.M., but six people—two of which are members of the FDNY—had already sustained injuries.

ABC 7 reports that there is one crane operator and at least 50 people working near the crane on a typical day, according to authorities. Considering the circumstances, just six injury victims is nothing short of a miracle. Mayor Eric Adams agrees that the accident “could have been much worse,” given the high traffic of the area in the form of buses, cars, and pedestrians. He and a host of city officials have vowed a full investigation. As of today, 10th Avenue remains closed, and several of the surrounding buildings have been evacuated in precaution against additional collapse. 

Given the purpose of cranes—to lift and hold heavy objects and machinery, often high in the air—the risk of crane-related accidents is frightening. In their most recent analysis on crane accidents, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that an average of 44 people die in crane-related accidents in the U.S. each year. Crane accidents occur equally at construction sites (24%) and factories or plants (24%), with nearly 70% of crane accident fatalities occurring in the specialty trade, heavy and civil engineering, and construction industries. Additionally, just over half of all fatal crane injuries involved the worker being struck by an object or equipment. 

Crane accident cases can be complex and overwhelming, as proving who is legally responsible, and to what extent, is a challenging job. Our family of personal injury attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a successful track record of obtaining compensation for clients injured in crane accidents, such as:

  • A $15,000,000 settlement for the surviving family of a 38-year-old HVAC technician, who was tasked with the removal of a 28,450-pound chiller unit. The loving husband and father was killed on the job.
  • A $12,000,000 settlement for a Local 147 tunnel worker, who fell approximately 40 feet into a ventilation shaft on a Manhattan construction site, and suffered severe internal and external injuries as a result. 
  • A $6,000,000 settlement for a union operating engineer who was injured while trying to exit a crane on a Manhattan construction site. 

If you have been hurt in a crane accident, the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online form to discuss your case with a qualified crane accident attorney today.


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