Russell Willenberg, 60, of the 10000 block of Alliance Drive in Dellwood, either jumped or fell from the cab when the crane fell on its left side, witnesses told police. They said it appeared the load had shifted. The accident occurred about 8 a.m. where a truck terminal is being built at the Northwest Industrial Park, at Northwest Industrial Drive and St. Charles Rock Road, just west of Interstate 270.
It took rescuers about an hour to extract Willenberg from underneath the cab portion of the crane. Construction workers used two other cranes nearby to lift the wreckage off him. Officials said the crane weighed at least 50 tons.
Emergency crews from the Robertson, Bridgeton and Pattonville Fire Protection Districts helped treat Willenberg, who was unconscious but breathing when he was moved to DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton. He died there about 10 a.m., during surgery.
“I don’t think it was misjudgment or an equipment failure,” said Robertson Assistant Fire Chief Chester Jones. “It was more of a freak accident in terms of a load shift or something of that nature. The few interviews that we have had (with witnesses), nobody seemed to think the equipment failed.”
Willenberg operated a crane for John’s Crane and Equipment Co., a subsidiary of Big Boy Steel Erection Inc., 11843 Missouri Bottom Road. Nobody there was available for comment.
Investigators with the St. Louis area office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration went to the site. OSHA investigates all fatalities involving workplace accidents. It could take up to six months to determine if there were any safety violations.