Crane Accidents

Collapsing Crane Severs Arm of Operator


A 60-foot crane collapsed in St. Andrew’s Plaza in lower Manhattan yesterday evening, severing the arm of one construction worker after a cable snapped, officials said.

The portable crane, which was attached to a truck, came crashing down behind the Municipal Building and in front of the United States Attorney’s office just after 8 p.m., pinning the crane operator, witnesses said.

The man, Benjamin Wiggins, of Queens, suffered severe head injuries, and his right arm was severed above the elbow. The project foreman, whose name was not released by the authorities, was being questioned last night by police officials.

The workers at the site were lifting large metal plates, obscured by the red bricks of the plaza, to reach an underground boiler room for one of the buildings, said Lt. Corey Cuneo, a police spokesman. Witnesses said that they heard loud vibrations and then heard the crane wobbling before it crashed into the plaza so hard that it tossed some bricks and pulverized others.

Investigators said last night that they were still looking into the cause of the collapse, which may have been recorded on security cameras.

Two postal employees, Robert Cruz, 53, a supervisor at the Grand Central Terminal post office, and Guillermina Colon, 48, a program specialist, were walking from an event for veterans when they saw the cable snap. They rushed to help Mr. Wiggins, who did not lose consciousness while he was pinned.

Ms. Colon said she placed her jacket around Mr. Wiggins to warm him, then she borrowed a belt from a passer-by to tie his arm and prevent more blood loss.

She said that she, Mr. Cruz and two police officers talked to Mr. Wiggins to console him while they waited for paramedics to arrive. The medics said they were delayed because large planters that were placed around police headquarters as a security measure over the summer blocked the emergency vehicles. The paramedics carried their equipment around them to Mr. Wiggins.

The boiler project was being managed by Gantz Iron and Works of Brooklyn, officials said. Paul Wein, a Buildings Department spokesman, said he would not be able to furnish information on the company’s safety record until today.

The accident was the latest in a spate of serious accidents at construction sites in Manhattan. On Oct. 13, two workers refurbishing a TriBeCa building were seriously injured when a cable they were securing snapped, dropping a pulley on top of them. Two days earlier, two workers were knocked off a midtown scaffolding and injured. A crane collapse in Chelsea killed a construction worker and injured three others on Sept. 27. And on July 14, a worker repairing a leaking roof of an Upper West Side school was killed when a hoist buckled and dropped him nine stories.

Category: Accident Report

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