Verdict in civil trial of fatal 2019 Seattle crane collapse

SEATTLE — A verdict of over $150 million has been reached in King County for five victims of the 2019 crane disaster in Seattle.

On April 27, 2019, the tower crane fell from the Google Building construction project onto Mercer Street, killing four and injuring more.

The disaster claimed the life of 19-year-old Seattle Pacific University freshman Sarah Wong when she was crushed in the back seat of an Uber vehicle.

Wong and her friend, Brittany Cadelena, had attended a SPU soccer match that Saturday afternoon, and hired the Uber to take them to University Village.

The 300-foot crane tower was in the process of being disassembled by mobile crane company Omega Morgan and by ironworkers employed by Northwest Tower Crane when the tower fell.

According to a news release, the ironworkers violated crane manufacturing procedures when they prematurely removed structural connection pieces from the crane tower in order to disassemble the crane quicker.

Safe working conditions required forecast wind to be less than 11 mph and if the winds exceeded 11 mph the disassembly was required to stop.

Gusts of over 25 mph were documented at 1:30 p.m. on the day the crane collapsed.

An operator initially stopped with the disassembly, but then made the decision to continue.

Omega Morgan never checked the weather forecast.

As crews continued to remove pins and sleeves down to the bottom of the tower crane, winds gusted over 30 mph.

The crane fell to the south over Mercer Street, crushing Wong and another motorist, Alan Justad.

Two ironworkers who were also in the tower crane cab fell to their deaths.

“Nothing can replace our beloved father, Alan Justad, or ease the unthinkable heartbreak that this preventable tragedy has caused our family and so many others,” said Marika, Jade and Miro Justad in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to members of the jury for their thoughtful consideration and deliberation, and for sending a crystal-clear message that companies absolutely must put safety first to protect the lives of our community members.”

There were a total of four fatalities and multiple injuries. Five of the cases, two fatalities and three injuries, were consolidated for the six-week trial.

The jury found Northwest Tower Crane and Omega Morgan responsible, returning a verdict of over $150 million for the five victims.

Over $72 million was for the death of Wong.