4,500-pound chandelier damaged in Missouri Capitol mishap

Sunday, November 12, 2006
Workmen looked over the situation at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo., Saturday. The chandelier fell several feet Friday evening. (News Tribune)

The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A massive, antique chandelier that had been lowered in the Capitol Rotunda for maintenance was damaged when it fell the remaining few feet to the floor, state officials said Saturday.

No one was hurt in the mishap that occurred about 8 p.m. Friday, state facilities management director Dave Mosby said. Crews had built a metal scaffold around the 4,500-pound brass fixture after lowering it three weeks ago so that a contractor could replace electrical wires and the cable by which it hangs.

"If there is good news in a bad-news situation, this is it -- we are absolutely thankful that it was five feet above the ground instead of 230 feet above the ground," Mosby said.

Mosby said it could be several months before the chandelier -- the largest of about 30 in the Statehouse -- is raised again.

In late 2003, a 600-pound brass chandelier dropped nearly 50 feet in the Senate chamber, smashing an antique mahogany bench in front of the dais. No one was injured in that accident, but it prompted inspections of all the Capitol's chandeliers, with safety cables installed on some.

Mosby said Friday's mishap appeared to result from the failure of a mechanism connecting the chandelier's cable with one supporting a 4,000-pound counterweight. Mosby said three safety clamps were supposed to support the structure if something broke, but they pulled off.

Mosby said state officials became concerned earlier Friday as the crew finished its work and began testing the cable.

"When they went to raise [the chandelier], it would twist and turn like a fan," Mosby said. "That twisting and turning was unacceptable to us, the state, because it would make it dangerous."

The contractor was told to let the chandelier "sit on its weight" just above the ground over the weekend rather than raise it back up, Mosby said.

"We were going to wait and see," he said. "We didn't anticipate this particular event."

When the chandelier fell, it was suspended by the cable, but still within the scaffolding that had supported it while work was under way. The chandelier banged against the scaffolding as it dropped, helping to slow its fall.

"That's why there is damage to the chandelier, but it's not destroyed," Mosby said.

He said glass on the bottom of the chandelier was broken when it hit the floor and there also was damage to the top of the chandelier because some of the ornamental chains came down on top of it.

The Capitol was closed to the public Saturday while crews stabilized the chandelier.

Mosby said the fixture would remain in the Rotunda until an insurance company and a safety inspector for the contractor could inspect the chandelier sometime in the next week. The state will then select a restoration expert, he said.

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