Seventh body pulled from rubble at site of New York crane collapse

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NEW YORK -- The last of seven bodies was pulled from the rubble Monday at the site of a crane collapse that obliterated a town house and severely damaged other buildings.

Six construction workers and a woman in town for St. Patrick's Day were killed Saturday when the crane broke away from an apartment tower under construction and toppled like a tree onto buildings as far as a block away. The last three bodies were found Monday.

A preliminary city investigation found that the crane toppled after a steel collar used to tie it to the side of the building fell as workers attempted to install it.

When the equipment fell, it damaged a lower steel collar that was a major anchor securing the tower crane. Investigators said that with the elimination of the lower support the counterweights at the top of the crane's tower caused it to fall.

The crane, which rose 19 stories, came crashing down on a Manhattan neighborhood a few blocks from the United Nations on the city's east side.

All the dead were construction workers except for a woman who was in the four-story town house that was demolished when the crane fell on it.

The woman had come from Miami to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and to visit a friend who lived in the town house, said John LaGreco, owner of Fubar, a saloon on the ground floor of the town house. The woman was in her friend's apartment at the time of the accident, he said, but her friend was rescued.

Twenty-four others were injured, including 11 first responders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Eight people remained hospitalized Monday, officials said.

On Sunday, the Reliance Construction Group, the project's contractor, released a statement expressing sympathy to the families of the dead and injured and said it was cooperating with government investigators.

About 250 cranes operate in the city on any given day, and the accident shouldn't alarm New Yorkers living near high-rise construction sites, the mayor said. "This is a very tragic but also a very rare occurrence," he said.

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