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Queens Chronicle

LIC crane collapse prompts investigation

Operator’s license suspended; LIC crane collapse last Wednesday

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

The investigation continues into the 300-foot crane collapse last Wednesday at the TF Cornerstone construction site in Hunters Point where seven workers were harmed with non-life-threatening injuries. According to the Fire Department, of the seven involved, three had to be freed from under the crane itself.

“I just ran; I was calling my son’s mother and my son to tell them, you know, how much I loved them,” said Preston White, a Bronx carpenter working at the scene during the accident.

“It was just that tragic,” White added.

The residential construction site located at 46th Avenue and Center Boulevard is right behind the famous 120-foot-long Pepsi Cola sign, which pierces the Long Island City skyline at Gantry Plaza State Park, along with luxury apartments on the East River waterfront.

“Site safety is always our first priority as it relates to construction, and we are cooperating fully with all relevant authorities to try and determine what caused this occurrence,” said TF Cornerstone spokesperson John Marino in a written statement.

White went on to recall the moments he heard a cable snap, forcing it to recoil back toward the crane, which was followed by a loud crushing sound.

“Everybody started running out of the way that was on the deck, because they thought that’s all that was coming [down], the cable ... the next thing you know, the crane just buckled and came crashing down,” White said, still visibly shaken when speaking to reporters at the scene.

The crane is owned by New York Crane but was leased and operated by subcontractor Cross Country Construction at the time of the incident.

According to initial reports from the Department of Buildings, the mobile crane’s boom was attempting to lift a load that was more than double its maximum capacity for the unit — at a weight of 23,900 pounds.

“The preliminary investigation also shows that the operator was unable to see the materials being lifting and was attempting to lift those materials outside of the approved loading zone,” Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said in a statement last Thursday evening, the most recent information released by the department since the accident.

Crane operator Paul Greer has had his Hoist Machine Operator Class-B license suspended as a result.

Local politicians are now weighing in on construction site safety concerns.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) called this accident “avoidable” in a press release issued right after the incident.

“While the ongoing development of western Queens is great for job growth and the local economy, all development projects must be done responsibly,” Gianaris said on Tuesday.

“Cranes and other construction work must be operated with safety as the predominant guide, not speed. Any future development should be done in a way to maximize concern for people’s safety,” he added.

In 2008, New York Crane owner James Lomma was indicted on charges of manslaughter, following the death of two construction workers at an Upper East Side work site. He was eventually acquitted of all charges last April.

Gianaris acknowledges that most construction projects in LIC are done efficiently and safely, but notes that all involved on a construction site — from crane operators and workers on-site, to the development companies — need to ensure their project adheres to codes every step of the way to avoid accidents and injuries from occurring.

“I think what we have to do is make sure whatever pressure exists in terms of desire to complete projects in a timely and on budget manner, that safety is not compromised in any way to reach those understandable goals,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Van Bramer arrived at the scene moments after the injured and other workers were evacuated from the construction site. While there, the council member, who noted all workers were accounted for, also spoke to the chief of police, who reported on the injured. He additionally spoke to constituents who came down to see what was going on.

“People in the neighborhood came by clearly concerned,” Van Bramer said, noting he did not want to speculate if speed was a specific concern relating to this accident as the investigation is ongoing.

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