Crane Accidents

Crane Accident with 3 Fatalities


London, England

Crane Operator's Cab Crashes to Ground in London Accident 2000The three workmen killed when a crane snapped and plunged 400 feet in London’s Docklands have been named.

The dead men were Peter Clark, 33, from Southwark, London; Martin Burgess, 31, from Castleford, West Yorkshire; and Michael Whittard, 39, from Leeds.

Health and safety investigators are continuing on-site checks into the deaths on Sunday at a Canary Wharf building site in east London.

The three men were in the crane’s cab and were working to jack it up to another level when it crashed 25 storeys to the ground between two bank buildings under construction.

An inquest date has not yet been fixed.

One eyewitness said it sounded like a bomb had gone off when the structure crashed to the ground.

The workers had been building part of a skyscraper for the HSBC bank.

The crane’s cab landed in a building crater, while the crane’s arm landed in North Colonnade, one of the main roads into the area.

As the metal arm crashed down, witnesses said it dragged heavy girders and wires with it, uprooting trees and flowers.

Scramble to safety

A bus shelter was also smashed as it was hit by falling debris and people in the area fled for cover.

Peter Foster, a journalist with The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which is based at Canary Wharf, said “it was more by luck than judgement that other people were not hurt by this”.

An air ambulance arrived on the scene, as did two fire engines and two fire rescue units with cutting equipment.

11/19/2003 Update: Crane Widows to Sue Over Deaths.

8/24/2003 Update: Hewden Faces £16m Bill Over Crane Deaths.

11/13/2003 Update: Crane Deaths ‘A Mystery.’

Buckled Lattice Boom in London Crane Accident 2000The reason the top of a 450-foot crane broke off killing three construction workers may never be known, their families have been told.
Michael Whittard, 36, from Leeds, Martin Burgess, 31, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, and Peter Clark, 33, from Southwark, south London, died when the crane they were working on crashed to the ground.

It was being used to construct the HSBC skyscraper in London’s Canary Wharf when the top snapped off on 21 May 2000

The jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in central London, returned an open verdict on Thursday.

Workers Eamonn Glover and Gareth Hetherington survived the accident by hanging on to the remaining mast and running down 27 flights of the building, which was then just a shell.

The Health and Safety Executive said that despite extensive investigation, it accepted the precise technical cause may never be established conclusively.

“It is very disappointing for us and the families that it has not yet been possible to pin down exactly what caused the accident,” a spokesman said.

The men were part of a team employed by Hewden Tower Cranes to make the crane taller by adding new sections.

They had almost finished when part of the crane, called the climbing frame, began twisting.

Mr Glover told the inquest he shut his eyes as “the whole thing shook”.

“I actually thought I was going down with the crane,” he said.

“When everything stopped I looked up and there was no crane there.”

‘Could have been higher casualties’

After the accident the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published an industry-wide discussion paper about how to improve the operation to lengthen cranes.

The inquest heard a special safety plug was missing and there was no anemometer in the crane cab to measure wind speed, although there were no weather problems that day.

Tony O’Brien, national secretary of the organisation Construction Safety Campaign said: “I cannot understand when three people get killed and no one is to blame.”

“It happened on a Sunday. If it had happened on a weekday it could have been worse.

“I don’t want to think about the amount of people that could have been walking around there.”

5/27/2004 Update: Crane Clames


TWO of the widows of the HSBC crane tragedy will face their husbands’ former employer in court.

Melanie Whittard and Alison Clarke and accident survivor Gareth Hetherington will meet Hewden Tower Cranes at the Royal Courts of Justice next year.

Mick Whittard, Peter Clarke and Martin Burgess fell 450ft when the crane they were working on for Hewden Tower Cranes at HSBC’s Canada Square HQ collapsed on May 21, 2000. Last week Mr Burgess’s partner Janine Wood settled her claim out of court for up to £1million.

Lawyers for Mrs Clarke, Mrs Whittard and Mr Hetherington, Andrew Bentley, said: “The settlement offers made to my clients are insufficient and have been rejected on the basis of merit.”

The trial has been set for January.

6/27/2005: HSE Rules Evidence Insufficient in Canary Wharf Crane Collapse.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has decided there is insufficient evidence to support any action regarding the tower crane collapse at Canada Square, London which resulted in the death of three workers on 21 May 2000.

In a report, published this week, the HSE said after exhaustive investigations, its inspectors, the Metropolitan Police, lifting specialists and external experts could find no conclusive explanation for the incident.

Rosi Edwards, HSE acting chief inspector of construction, said: “While we have been unable to prove how or why this tragic incident occurred, the investigation has identified a number of actions the industry needs to take.”

The HSE said all tower crane operators must thoroughly check their external climbing equipment complies with the latest lifting regulations.

Meanwhile, work is currently underway by the Construction Industry Research and Information Association on new guidance about tower crane stability, while the British Standard BS 7121 part 5 on tower cranes is being revised.

3/30/2006: Relatives of Crane Collapse victims Hope to Prosecute.

From, by Alan Lodge

AN engineer has brought fresh hope to relatives of the victims of the Canary Wharf crane disaster.

The families of the three victims were outraged last summer when a five-year investigation into the tragedy failed to result in any prosecutions.

Peter Clarke, 33, Michael Whittard, 39 and Martin Burgess, 31, died when the crane they were working on collapsed during the construction of HSBC’s World HQ in Canada Square on May 21, 2000.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive brought insufficient evidence for prosecution against Hewden Tower Crane, the firm for which the three men were working at the time.

But an engineer who has looked over the HSE’s report has spotted new evidence to suggest that a prosecution could still come about.

5/10/2007: Hewden Crane Collapse Case to be Heard in UK.

Hewden Tower Cranes has won its court battle to have a claim against Wolffkran GMBH heard in Britain.

The crane manufacturer had wanted the proceedings to be heard in Germany in accordance with its dispute procedure.

In a statement, Hewden confirmed it is taking legal proceedings against the manufacturer and said: “Since our claim was filed, proceedings were put on hold by the court until a jurisdiction dispute with the defendant, who requested the proceedings be transferred to German jurisdiction, was resolved.”

The dispute relates to the collapse of a crane on 21 May 2000 at Canary Wharf that killed three Hewden staff and injured two others. The hirer has subsequently sold its tower crane business but retains liability for the accident.

Hewden claimed the accident, which occurred as the crane was being climbed, was caused by defective welds in the climbing frame, which subsequently failed, causing one or more of the guide wheels to disengage from the crane mast. It maintained that the faults were caused by negligence on the part of Wolffkran in the design and/or manufacture of the climbing frame.

In reaching his decision, Mr Justice Jackson said the harmful events happened in England, so the English courts had jurisdiction and Wolffkran couldn’t rely on any agreement requiring disputes to be litigated in Germany. Wolffkran has
the right to appeal.

Category: Accident Report, Famous, In Memory of

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