The Collapse of a New York City Crane Caused by a Loss of Engine Fluid Injured Twelve People, Including Three Firefighters

On Wednesday morning in Midtown Manhattan, a machine deck fire caused a 180-foot construction crane boom to fall 45 floors to the streets below, sending panicked pedestrians scrambling for their lives.

Once the fire broke out well above 550 10th Ave. near 41st St. at 7:25 a.m., the 180-foot-long boom was severely damaged, and the arm collapsed, sending 16 tons of concrete hurtling toward the 36th level and creating multiple loud bangs as it crashed into a high-rise building across the street.

The quiet neighborhood was jolted awake by the ruckus at breakfast time, and chunks of debris continued to fall from the sky and land on the ground hours later. The collapsing construction equipment rattled the nearby 555 10th Ave., where Julie Adams, 34, lives on the 24th floor. “I thought my building was going down, honestly,” she said.

The preliminary cause of the construction fire and crane collapse, according to a source quoted by the Daily News, was a leak of hydraulic fluid from the engine compartment onto a heated metal plate. It was reported that three firefighters and nine people were hurt in the collapse. At 11:44 a.m., the fire was said to be contained by the FDNY.

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“Thank God the injuries were minor,” Mayor Adams said at the scene. “This could have been much worse. We were extremely fortunate.” A construction worker on the 44th story of 550 10th Ave. saw the fire start and stated a coworker tried to extinguish it but couldn’t.

Marco Araujo told the Daily News, “I was on the deck when it started smoking.” He made an attempt to put it out. But his miniature fire extinguisher was useless. Carpenter Araujo, 44, said it didn’t work because the flames were moving too quickly. Insane, as they say.

The elevator was broken when he and his coworkers sought to flee. As a result, they had to use a ladder to access the basement. According to Araujo, the boom started to fall apart sometime about the 20th floor. “I never thought the boom would come down,” he marveled. “But then it did. In 12 years, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Maintenance man Michael Lyles from a nearby skyscraper said that the construction workers had likely prevented deaths by quickly closing off the streets and directing pedestrians away from the danger. “The construction crew was very on point,” he said.

“When they saw there was a fire, they started blocking off the street and pushing people back. That’s when the crane fell.” Perry DellAquila, 56, a local homeowner, claimed he was checking his e-mails on his computer when the sound of the falling crane echoed through the neighborhood.

The Collapse of a New York City Crane Caused by a Loss of Engine Fluid Injured Twelve People, Including Three Firefighters (1)

“I heard the crash and I was like, ‘Wow, that doesn’t sound right,’” he recounted. “And when I just looked out the window, I saw the last piece of debris hitting the (street). It hit the side of the building and then hit the middle of the street.”

The FDNY told him to stay outside as they evacuated his building at 561 10th Ave. Fifty FDNY units and 220 firefighters responded to the five-alarm fire, and drones were used by fire officials to guarantee the blaze was put out.

James Oddo, the city’s commissioner of buildings, has stated that an inquiry into the incident is currently under way. The site’s interim general contractor, Monadnock Construction, released a statement about the incident in the afternoon.

“Safety is a priority for Monadnock Construction Inc. at this and every project,” the company said. “We are fully cooperating with all regulatory agencies and are available for any assistance that is needed. We are unable to provide any additional details regarding the incident at this time.”

 

Crane engineer and CEO of Brooklyn’s Valjato Engineering, Steve Valjato, declined to speak with the Daily News. Cross Country Construction has been named the on-site concrete safety manager. Until his passing in 2019, James Lomma oversaw operations at NY Crane & Equipment Corp., the crane’s owner.

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In May of 2008, two workers were killed when a crane owned by Lomma crashed on the Upper East Side. The businessman was found not guilty of manslaughter in 2012, but the corporation nonetheless paid $35 million to the victims’ families.

A member of the Lomma team was unavailable for comment on Wednesday regarding the most recent collapse. Gwyneth Leech, a local resident and expert construction-site painter, remembers how rapidly the situation deteriorated.

“First we heard a huge clattering noise at 7:30 a.m.,” she recalled. “Then we came down and saw the crane was on fire.” The crane’s arm became detached after the fire started and crashed in an arc onto parked cars on 10th Ave.

A stunning video captured the moment the crane’s arm slammed into a neighboring structure, swung back into the tower where the tragedy took place, and plummeted to the ground. According to authorities, the majority of the crane’s boom fell within the 550 10th Ave. building site.

As they battled the incident, firefighters ordered the evacuation of nearby properties, including at least one hotel. Videos uploaded to social media sites depicted firefighters dousing the flames from neighboring buildings while the mutilated arm lay on the sidewalk.

Araujo, still in disbelief, claims that the work at 550 10th Ave. was expected to be completed within two weeks. “We were going to have a party,” he said. “Now who knows what’s going to happen.”

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