Amid Construction Boom, NYC “Kicks the Can” on Construction Safety Training

Last summer, Midtown Manhattan was shaken by a crane accident. A heating and air conditioning unit loosed from the service room atop a Madison Avenue building, and plummeted down to the street below. Approximately ten people, a mixture of workers and pedestrians, were injured in the accident, though none were killed. On its way down, the AC/heating unit skimmed the side of the building, scraping glass and material as it went, which rained down on the scene below.

This week, another crane accident occurred. Sadly, this one was fatal. The scene was snowy and windy, captured on amateur video by nearby construction workers and residents alike. These residents also reported “heavy vibrations” and noted that you could feel the building shaking as the crane tipped over.

Crane Accidents

Snow and wind is a dangerous combination for cranes; the wind can sway the machinery and snow can weigh on certain parts of a crane, causing imbalances. Knowing this, the engineers and on-site workers decided to lower the “boom” of the crane, so as to reduce the danger. The aim, in situations like these, is to lower the crane from gusty altitudes in a safe, controlled manner, down to more clement low-levels. However, swirling winds caused the crane to topple, and operators lost control. The counterweight designed to keep the machine balanced was swept off-kilter by a whip-like gale. The 565-foot crane crashed down onto the street below, killing 1 passerby.

However, by all accounts, things could have been much, much worse. Calm under pressure, and brave until the end, crane operator Kevin Reilly of Port Jefferson directed the tumbling crane towards the middle of Tribeca Street, away from the much more heavily-populated sidewalks. Even as the crane’s cab flipped over, Kevin Reilly held fast, steering the out-of-control rig the best he possibly could. Without his superlative effort, more lives could have been lost, and more injuries surely would have been lost. In catastrophes like these, it’s comforting to find silver linings.

We do solemnly report that one life was lost. David Wichs, a 38-year-old Manhattan resident was sitting in his car when it was struck by the falling crane. He was killed in the incident. Three more people were injured in the accident. Two were struck by debris that had been scraped from the building itself, and hospitalized. They are in serious condition.

Afterwards, the 330-ton crane was power-sawed into over 30 pieces in order to be cleared from the snow-strewn street.

So what happened? Why do these crane accidents keep happening in New York City? Well, mother nature is unpredictable and often behaves violently. It’s hard to account for all the variables present in outdoor environments, and even when the proper channels are traveled, and the proper safety practices employed, accidents can, and will, happen. This crane accident is a case in point: despite the best intentions and appropriate actions of the workers involved, calamity still struck. After this accident occurred, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all cranes currently in-operation (376 “crawler” cranes and 53 “tower” cranes) to be “secured.” This reactionary measure does prompt the question: shouldn’t there be a way to properly secure these pieces of equipment before disaster strikes?

All city ordinances were followed in-full; when an extension was applied for to extend the length of the crane, city officials found the operation within full compliance.


Kaplan Lawyers PC

In New York State, there are strict regulations that were designed to keep you safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many crane-specific bylaws in place which must be heeded. If these guidelines have been neglected or willfully ignored, and you have been injured as a result, then the foremen, engineers, or on-site workers responsible for the lapse in care, judgment or protocol adherence should be held responsible. And it may be within your rights to seek compensation for your injuries. Remember, it is dangerous for cranes to be:


  • Loaded over capacity
  • Operated on uneven surfaces
  • Operated by incompetent, inexperienced or impaired workers
  • Operated without first undergoing rigorous pre-job inspections
  • Operated near electric wires, spilled fuel, or other hazardous materials
  • Operated overtop workers or pedestrians, if their content is liable to fall
  • Transported hastily or with insufficient care
  • Be operated by inexperienced or incompetent workers


At Kaplan Lawyers PC, the well-being of our clients is our #1 concern. If you or a loved one have been hurt, and don’t know how to proceed, contact Kaplan Lawyers PC for a free and easy consultation. We can help you get started, and begin fighting for your rights.