Comptroller says deadly NYC crane collapse could have been prevented; investigation underway

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TRIBECA, Manhattan — The investigation into what went wrong to cause a 56-story crane to collapse began at virtually the same moment it hit the ground.

Even though the owner of the crane, the Bay Crane Company, and its operator, Galasso Transportation and Logistics, would not make any public comment in the wake of the calamity, they do have many questions to answer from federal investigators. Also, the whole situation may have been prevented, according to the city comptroller, if the city department in charge of enforcing building standards had done its job better.

For now, and apparently through much of the weekend, the twisted metal and shattered car that the collapse left behind remain at the scene as inspectors from Occupational Safety and Health Administration and from the city go over it in great detail. They're examining every aspect of the incident in order to try and figure out how it went awry.

"Was it an electronic problem? Was it a hydraulic problem?" asked Joe Sage, a structural architect who has worked scenes of construction calamities, including crane collapses, and is therefore familiar with the protocols of construction accident investigations.

"The boom was moving too fast," Sage told PIX11 News, "so the hinge at the bottom [of it] was rotating too quickly."

A friend of Sage was actually killed in a crane collapse in 1979 that was similar to the one on Friday.

Because the potential dangers are so great, the city required a buildings department employee to be on hand at the scene Friday before anything went wrong. Workers on site were trying to lower the crane into a safer position from high winds when the crane gave way.

The city employee, working with other construction workers on site, had ordered people to clear the area in case something would go wrong. Obviously, it did.

"It tells me they were looking at the weather patterns and planning for this," construction attorney Stephen Murphy said. "They were trying to do the best they could to keep people safe."

So the situation could have been worse, Murphy pointed out.

However, it might have been prevented altogether if the buildings department had done its overall job better. That's the upshot of statements made Friday afternoon by the city's comptroller, Scott Stringer.

"There was a study commissioned In 2008," Stringer told PIX11 News, in which the city recommended that the Department of Buildings implement 65 new safety protocols. Of those, said Stringer, "they implemented only eight."

He also said that the safety protocols that were implemented were among the least effective.

One of the most effective, Stringer told PIX11 News, was a detailed walkthrough of a construction site by a DOB safety officer with a construction site's manager before any building project began. Stringer said the reason the DOB and contractors cited for not making that mandatory was that it slowed construction schedules, even though the walkthroughs would take one or two days, depending on the size of the project.