Florida Department of Transportation officials were unable to explain why the towering red crane, capable of lifting 150 tons, buckled at the base of its steel boom and fell onto the interstate.
“We feel real fortunate. It obviously could have been catastrophic,” said John McShaffrey, spokesman for the Department of Transportation. The steel arm struck a 1998 Kia driven by Chicago resident Lori Hogan and a tractor-semitrailer driven by 54-year-old Kenneth Roby of Spring Hill, officials said.
Hogan, 37, was transported to Tampa General Hospital. Four family members riding in the car were not injured, officials said. Hogan was treated Wednesday afternoon and released.
The crane, owned by Sims Crane of Tampa and subcontracted by Granite Construction Co., was on the north shoulder of the westbound interstate when the accident happened about 1:15 p.m.
It was lifting beams from the Chelsea Street overpass, part of a project to widen the interstate.
Large segments of twisted red metal littered the westbound lanes, closing the interstate for several hours. Westbound traffic was diverted from Orient Road to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Nearly all vehicles, except large trucks, were permitted to turn around and exit the road.
“It was like one of those dream states you see on TV when you’re falling down the mountain,” said truck driver Rick Wirick, who was driving a freight truck that narrowly missed the falling boom. “That’s how it fell. Nice and solid. No noise.”
“Scared me, though,” said Wirick, who lives near Pensacola. “I started praying and sweating.”
And braking. The skid marks left by Wirick’s truck stretched about 500 feet. He stopped just in time.
In fact, no crashes occurred among the long line of vehicles that stopped suddenly, officials said.
The crane was performing a routine function when it buckled, McShaffrey said.
Photographer Notes: The mishap backed up traffic on I-4. Though the crane came down on two vehicles, no crashes occured.
Category: Accident Report