Burning tower crane drops boom in New York

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Multiple reports have come in of a tower crane in New York City, USA, catching fire and dropping its boom into the street below. Minor injuries were reported, to around a dozen people.

Around 07.30 on 26 July a fire was reported on a large diesel hydraulic luffing jib tower crane working on the construction of a 47 storey mixed use tower, 550 10th Avenue, at the junction with West 41st Street, in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, near the Lincoln Tunnel.

Local news reports said the fire started in the crane’s engine compartment, on the machinery deck behind the operator’s cabin. An hydraulic oil leak close to the hot diesel engine has been suggested as a possible cause of the fire but nothing has been confirmed.

Attacking the fire

The crane operator attempted to extinguish the fire. “We give a lot of credit to the crane operator but the fire overwhelmed that operator and he had to exit the crane,” said Joseph Pfeifer, New York Fire Department first deputy commissioner.

As fire crews then arrived on the scene the Favelle Favco crane’s boom, thought to be around 50 metres long, suddenly dropped from its luffed position and then detached from the crane, falling into the street 45 storeys below. It was carrying a full concrete bucket, reported to have weighed 16 US tons, which also landed in the road below. As it fell the boom hit and damaged a building across the street. The rest of the crane remained standing and was not thought to be unstable.

The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) said, “Following this morning’s tower crane collapse in Midtown Manhattan, DOB inspectors and engineers remain on scene and their investigation is ongoing. The tower crane and impacted buildings were found to be structurally stable, and thankfully only minor injuries have been reported.”

DOB said its inspectors and engineers would remain at the site to oversee the situation while plans were developed for the safe removal of the crane, while also working to determine why the incident occurred.

On the cause of the boom’s collapse Joseph Pfeifer commented, “As the fire heats the cable the cable weakens to a point where it loses its strength and that’s where the collapse occurred.” Presumably, as the boom dropped, its weight combined with that of the full concrete skip, was sufficient to detach it from its mountings on the crane.

Local news reports said the crane, owned by New York Crane and Equipment Corp,, was inspected in June by city authorities and no violations were found.

A statement issued by the development project’s main contractor Monadnock Construction, read, “Safety is a priority for Monadnock Construction, Inc. at this and every project. We are fully co-operating with all regulatory agencies.”


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