A crane collapsed in snowy lower Manhattan Friday morning, killing at least one person and seriously hurting two others. One other person sustained minor injuries. Some reports had put the number hurt as high as 15 in the immediate aftermath, but officials now confirm four total victims.
The 565-foot crane crashed to the ground just before 8:30 a.m. on Worth Street near Church Avenue in Tribeca, crushing the hoods and shattering the windows of cars along the entire length of the city block. It knocked buildings on the way down, and its red-mesh tower lay twisted and snarled on the pavement below. Emergency workers, including more than 130 firefighters, responded to reports that people were trapped in the vehicles. One witness told the Associated Press he saw a body lying on the ground and passersby trying to help one person who was stuck in a car.
“I just felt it. It felt like a bomb,” one witness told CBS 2.
The victim has been identified as 38-year-old Harvard graduate David Wichs. Wichs, who was originally from Prague and lived on the Upper West Side, was crushed by the plummeting crane while walking on the sidewalk, not sitting in his car as previously reported.
Two other people were seriously hurt by falling debris, but the injuries aren’t life-threatening, and both are expected to be fine. Forty-five-year-old Dawn Kojima had just grabbed her coffee and was headed to work when she looked up, she told the Daily News, and was gashed in the face. She also hurt her leg. A 73-year-old man was also taken to the hospital with a large cut to his face. Another person suffered very minor injuries.
“It was something of a miracle there wasn’t more impact," Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference after a visit to the scene. The construction crews had tried to clear the area of people and cars when they decided — because of the snow and heavy wind gusts — to take down the crane and secure it. The crane barrelled over while crews were hauling it down. “Thank God it was not worse,” de Blasio said. “In fact, a crew was directing people away from Worth Street as the crane was being lowered.”
The crane was parked on Worth Street, for reported use at a construction site at 60 Hudson Street, which is being turned into luxury condos. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the crane was not used for building work at all Friday morning.
The crane came down with such force it shattered a water main on Worth Street, flooding the streets. The crash also possibly damaged a gas line, reports ABC 7, and the FDNY has received reports of a gas smell in the area. Con Ed and the FDNY are sweeping the scene every 15 minutes to check gas levels, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who gave a press conference after visiting the scene. Officials have closed off the surrounding blocks to cars and pedestrians and are turning people away who are arriving for work or trying to get back home. Subways are also not stopping at Franklin or Chambers Street along the 1 line. Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference that it’s unlikely the streets near the crash site will be back to normal any time before Monday — at the earliest.
Mayor de Blasio has called for a larger shutdown of cranes across the city. He said the decision was a “precaution.” Crane operators are required by law to lower cranes when wind gusts persist at more than 25 miles per hour, according to the Times.
The crane site was also recently inspected; the NYC Department of Buildings had just been at the building scene Thursday morning. The crane, which is owned by Bay Crane, had just gone up at the site a week ago, on January 30.
Officials were also concerned that nearby buildings sustained structural damage, and had pinpointed a few structures that are potentially at risk, including parapets on two buildings belonging to New York Law School. Officials are trying to remove those now, and the school has shut down through Sunday.
Both the NYPD and the Department of Buildings are investigating the cause of the accident. This was the city’s first crane deadly collapse since 2008. The crane that came down at Worth Street is called a crawler crane; there are 376 potentially in use at construction sites throughout the city.
This story has been updated throughout.