Local crane safety questioned following accidents in Fla., N.Y.

March 25, 2008 9:24:17 PM PDT
Another deadly crane collapse raises questions about safety wherever cranes are used, including Chicago.Part of a construction crane fell 30 floors in Miami Tuesday, killing two people. The accident comes just ten days after a crane collapsed in New York, killing seven people.

Chicago's famed skyline is filled with impressive skyscrapers and also with signs of progress - more construction. In the downtown central business district alone there are more than 40 current projects using heavy duty cranes that rise more than 20 stories. Luke Hanley, a concerned resident, looked out at a construction crane from his unit on the 17th floor of a building in the South Loop and said he's concerned.

"And the buildings around here create wind tunnels that are pretty strong. We will see the crane turning around with the winds and it wind up directly over our head," he said.

Seven years ago, a crane on the other side of Hanley's building fell, causing major damage to the structure. High winds are often blamed for crane accidents, including one of the best known, the collapse of one of the world's largest cranes known as Big Blue during the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee in 1999. Three workers were killed.

On Tuesday morning in Miami, a 20-foot section of crane fell 30 floors, smashing into a home below. Two workers were killed and five others were injured. It happened when workers were in the process of trying to lengthen the crane, similar to what happened in New York last week. A steel support broke and a crane collapsed into nearby buildings. Seven people were killed.

In the aftermath, New York officials have increased safety and inspection requirements. The last time a crane was involved in an accident in Chicago happened when asphalt gave way underneath a crane in the Loop. No one was injured. Chicago Buildings Commissioner Richard Rodriguez says the city's inspection procedures are already among the most thorough in the country.

"They are inspecting everything from bolt torque, to washers, to tie-ins, foundations, struts, everything from top to bottom," he said.

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