Dozens of terrified residents at a swanky apartment block became trapped in their homes after a 200ft crane came crashing over on the roof.
The 50 tonne ‘Wolfe’ crane, smashed into the Chandlers Wharf apartments in Liverpool close to a busy shopping centre during the Monday time lunch hour.
Having demolished the top floor penthouse, which was empty at the time, the impact sent huge concrete blocks tumbling through the top two floors and stairwells before ripping through the lift shaft.
The crane driver was in the cab at the time as it hit the corner of the building. He was taken to hospital with suspected minor injuries but luckily no one was seriously hurt.
Emergency services rushed to the scene to find the enormous red crane arching across the road from the building site, and over the top of the building to the pavement on the other side.
Using a cherry picker, firecrews were able to evacuate the remaining residents trapped on the top floors of the six storey flats using their balconies as access.
The crane was lifting 6 miles of steel re-enforcement bar for a new hotel across the road from the flats when the base buckled causing the neck to fall.
Third floor resident, Jon Lawton, 24, said: “I was in bed with my girlfriend at the time and we were terrified a bomb had gone off or an earthquake had hit.
“The entire building shook violently and all the furniture was sent flying across the room.
“We were panicing and could hear people running outside the door.
“We looked outside and builders from over the road were telling us to get out so we ran down the stairs as quick as we could.
“Looking at the crane from outside it just didn’t seem real.”
Scaffold worker Daniel Hird, 21, said: “We were working across the road when we heard a large creaking sound and we saw the crane falling.
“It was buckling like it was in slow motion and then it hit the flats.
“It made the loudest crash I had ever heard and we could see the drivers cab had struck the corner of the building.
“How no one one seriously hurt is beyond me.”
Chandlers Wharf resident Matthew Storrow, 24, architecture student said: “I was in the bath at the time and a massive crash came just before the whole building started shaking.
“It wasn’t until we looked out of the balcony that we knew what had happened.
“People were screaming at us to get out of the building so I grabbed whatever clothes I could and we ran outside. It was terrifying.”
Industry experts have come up with two likely scenarios as to how a 60m tower crane toppled over backwards onto an apartment block in Liverpool on Monday.
The counterweight on the machine, thought to be a Wolff 500 belonging to hire firm HTC, smashed through the roof of the block, while the luffing jib flipped backwards over the building.
Poring over photographs of the accident on ContractJournal.com, experts speculated that:
- the jib was luffed too high and toppled backwards causing a failure in a lower section or the foundation/cross base, possibly due to a gust of wind;
- or that a lower tower section or the foundations failed, causing the crane to topple backwards which then caused the jib to crash backwards over the A-frame.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have started their investigations into the accident, in which the crane driver was thrown from the cab (which has its door at the rear) and sustained serious injuries.
Main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland (B&K) said the machine was lifting at the time and working well within its design limits but would not disclose the nature of the load or the lifting operation.
The Wolff 500 has a minimum working radius of 4.6m with a 40m jib or 6m at 60m which requires the jib to be under 7º to the vertical.
A fatal 2007 tower crane collapse in Liverpool occurred when a sudden gust of wind hit a light, close-radius load and lifted the luffing jib, causing the luffing rope to become loose and snag. The rope worked free causing the jib to free-fall until the slack was taken up whereupon the jolt caused the jib to fail.
A similar sudden gust of wind cannot be discounted at this stage.
Alternatively, if there was an undetected problem with the foundations/cross base or a lower tower section, luffing the jib to work at close radius with a light (or no) load would mean the counterweight would exert a higher bending moment on the tower and foundations. This could expose any undetected problem and lead to a catastrophic collapse.
“If the crane fell backwards, the jib would act like a slingshot and be catapulted past the vertical position making the situation even worse,” said one expert.
Both B&K and HTC said they were unable to make further comments.
Category: Accident Report