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Crane Partially Collapses in Midtown Manhattan, Injuring 11

Crane Partially Collapses in Midtown Manhattan, Injuring 11

In a dramatic scene, a construction crane atop a high-rise building in Midtown Manhattan burst into flames and partially collapsed onto the street on Wednesday morning, injuring 11 people, officials said.

The fire began just before 7:30 a.m. in the engine compartment of the crane, 45 stories above the street at 550 10th Avenue, officials from the fire and buildings department said.

A crane operator who had been working in the machine’s cabin, lifting 16 tons of concrete, saw the fire and tried but failed to put it out with a hand extinguisher before fleeing to safety. As the top part of the crane — and its 16-ton load — fell, it struck a neighboring building at 555 10th Avenue.

Nine civilians and two firefighters sustained minor injuries, officials said. One firefighter experienced chest pains and was taken to the hospital.

A preliminary analysis by fire department investigators indicated that the fire may have been caused by a rupture in a hydraulic line within the crane, according to a person affiliated with the project who was told of the analysis.

“This is a good morning, this could have been a lot worse,” Joseph W. Pfeifer, the deputy commissioner of the Fire Department, said during a news conference. Mr. Pfeifer said that more than 200 firefighters and emergency workers were on the scene.

Tyra Robbins, 26, who works at a building on 10th Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets, said she went outside after noticing a group of people who appeared to be taking photos of the sunrise. Instead, she said, she saw a crane leaning over the street. Within a minute it had fallen.

“It was like it fell in slow motion,” Ms. Robbins said.

“I just froze. I couldn’t believe that was happening,” she said, adding that she saw a piece of the crane snap off and hit a building across the street.

Calvin Chapman, a construction worker on the site at 550 10th Avenue, was working on the 26th floor when he looked up and saw electrical sparks. He said he and the other steamfitters were running down the stairs when the crane arm fell past them around the 11th floor.

Michael Feeney, another worker on the site, said he saw the fire and fire trucks coming down 10th Avenue and immediately ran to the basement to release air from a pipe so the sprinkler system could be activated. While he was down there, he felt the crane fall.

“There was a boom. The ceiling, the walls, the ground, everything shook,” he said, adding: “It was nothing like I’ve ever been through before.”

“I felt adrenaline going through my body,” Mr. Feeney said. “I thought: I need to leave, I got to get out of here, I don’t want to be under this building.”

Larry Krasner, who lives on the 54th floor of a building next to the site, said he did not see the crane fall but heard the explosion afterward.

“It was a big bang and then the fireball,” he said. He was working on the 45th floor of a building on Wall Street during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. He recalled that moment when he saw the explosion on Wednesday, although he quickly realized that the crane collapse was not nearly as big.

The crane was being used in the construction of a 54-story, mixed-use building, Jimmy Oddo, the commissioner of the city’s Buildings Department, said at the news conference.

Officials said Monadnock Construction, the general contractor on the project, was responsible for one prior accident there: Workers hit a piece of ConEd equipment when they were first excavating the site.

In a statement, Monadnock said that safety was a “priority” for all its projects and that it was “fully cooperating with all regulatory agencies.”

Cross Country Construction rented the crane from New York Crane & Equipment, which owned the crane equipment.

The crane that collapsed was marked with the name Lomma, after James F. Lomma, a crane and construction entrepreneur who died in 2019. Cranes owned by Mr. Lomma’s companies, which include New York Crane and Equipment and Lomma Crane and Rigging, have been involved in several other high-profile accidents, including a 2008 collapse on the Upper East Side that killed two construction workers.

Mr. Lomma was cleared of criminal charges in that incident but found liable for negligence in a civil trial in 2015 and ordered to pay $96 million in damages. He declared bankruptcy in 2016, and the following year a New York appeals court reduced the amount to be awarded to the families of the two men.

In 2013, a crane owned by New York Crane and Equipment company toppled onto a building under construction in Long Island City, Queens, trapping three workers and injuring seven. The crane operator had his license suspended after the city determined he had been trying to lift a load more than twice the crane’s capacity.

In February 2016, a crane collapsed in Lower Manhattan after the crew failed to securely lower it during wind gusts that neared 20 miles per hour. A pedestrian was killed, and three other people were injured.

Jennie Coughlin, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Sharon Otterman and Matthew Haag contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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