11 injured after burning crane sends debris plummeting to ground below in Manhattan
A large crane on a high-rise building caught fire and partially collapsed in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, causing debris to plummet to the ground.
Authorities say two firefighters and at least nine other people, including construction workers and passersby, suffered minor injuries when the fire broke out around 7:30 a.m.
The crane is on a building under construction, located on 10th Avenue and West 41st Street. Officials say the building is 47 stories high.
Photos and videos posted on social media showed flames bursting from the engine compartment of the crane hundreds of feet above street level.
The crane was carrying 16 tons of concrete and as the fire burned, it weakened the cable holding up the concrete until the cable gave way.
The crane boom went swinging like a sledgehammer, slicing a neighboring building, before both it and the concrete collapsed onto the street below.
“As you can see from the debris on the street, this could have been much worse,” Mayor Eric Adams said, noting that the street at that hour of the morning is often filled with pedestrians, cars and buses.
Officials said the crane operator was there when the fire broke out but could not put it out and had to evacuate. He was able to escape safely.
Within a few minutes, firefighters were shooting water down at the blaze from a balcony of an adjacent building. The fire was under control by 11:45 a.m.
More than 200 police officers and firefighters fanned out across the scene as 10th Avenue was closed for safety reasons until further notice.
Nearby buildings were evacuated and some witnesses told Eyewitness News they had minutes to grab what they could and get to safety.
A man who lives steps away from the building where the crane collapsed said he thought it was an earthquake.
“Wait a minute we live in NYC and a earthquake does not happen in the New York area, so and then I was like what is going on,” Irakli Klarje said. “Something bad is going on and there was a huge sound as well. So I lift my shade and I see this humongous flames from the crane and the humongous black smoke in front of me.”
Officials say there is one crane operator and about 50 people working near the crane on a typical day.
The crane is owned by the New York Crane & Equipment Corp., one of the city’s most widely used crane providers, officials said. The Queens-based company has been involved in other crane problems in recent years, leading to criminal charges and new safety measures around New York City’s crane operations.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
In May of 2008, a collapse of the company’s tower crane killed two workers on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The company and its owner, James Lomma, were acquitted of manslaughter and other charges; a mechanic pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide.
It was one of two deadly crane accidents in 2008, leading to the resignation of the city’s buildings commissioner, as well as new safety measures around testing and oversight of crane operations.
The preliminary investigation suggests the fire was likely caused by a hydraulic fluid leak, according to officials briefed on the situation. The probe is ongoing.
Authorities said they planned to investigate the structural integrity of the building that was under construction.
The location is near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, which carries auto traffic to and from New Jersey under the Hudson River.