Investigation underway as officials try to determine what caused fatal crane collapse

An investigation is underway as officials try to figure out what caused a tower crane to collapse and kill four people and hurt four others in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

The Associated Press reported Monday night that experts say it appeared workers who were disassembling a construction crane had removed pins securing sections together, and that could explain why it toppled over the weekend, killing four people.

Crane accident investigator Tom Barth said based on videos of the Seattle crane collapse that "if the pins had been in, that crane would not have fallen over."

Barth, who has been a tower crane operator, inspector and accident investigator for 38 years, said the only safe way to disassemble a tower crane is to do it by sections.

“It looked like something had exploded there was such carnage there,” said Tim Church, a spokesperson for Washington State Labor & Industries. “You can't help but be moved when you see cars crushed and pieces of machinery that are supposed to be upright laying in the street. It was clear people were hurt and dead from this,” Church said.

L&I said its investigators are working to find answers.

“It motivates us to make sure we know what happened and to do everything we can to prevent it from happening again,” Church said.

Church said the large tower crane was done with its work on a new Google building ad was in the process of being dismantled when something went wrong, and it collapsed -- killing four people.

So far, L&I has opened investigations into four companies.

Church said the companies are:

  • GLY - the general contractor
  • Northwest Tower Cranes Service Inc - in charge of dismantling the tower crane
  • Omega Rigging and Machinery Moving Inc - operates smaller mobile cranes, and was in charge of lifting crane pieces and moving them once they've been disassembled\
  • Morrow Equipment Company LLC – owned the tower and oversees tower crane assembly and disassembly operation

None of the companies are being accused of any wrongdoing. L&I said the investigation is just starting and could last as long as six months, which is the maximum time given to L&I to wrap up an investigation under Washington State law, Church said.

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GLY Construction, the contractor on the building, released a statement.

"We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by what happened at our job site on the northwest corner of Mercer and Fairview in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. Our sympathy and deepest condolences go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed in this tragic accident. We are hopeful for those who have been injured and wish that they return to full health as quickly as possible.

GLY and its sub-contractors involved with this tower crane accident are doing everything we can to investigate the incident. We are cooperating fully with investigators and assisting the local authorities. At this early stage of the investigation, we have no further details. We will share additional information as it becomes available. All inquiries regarding the tower crane accident should be directed to the authorities at this time. "

Vulcan Inc., who is developing the property, also released a statement. The property will soon house a Google campus in addition to apartments.

"We have received and confirmed reports of a tower crane accident at our site on the northwest corner of Mercer and Fairview in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

Our deepest sympathies go out to the families who have lost loved ones and our hope is that those who have been injured return to full health as soon as possible.

Our general contractor, GLY, and its sub-contractors are fully cooperating with the authorities investigating this incident."