Six construction workers and a visitor in town for the St. Patrick's Day parade were killed when a crane collapsed in midtown Manhattan the afternoon of March 15, destroying one townhouse and damaging several other buildings.
The bodies of four construction workers were pulled from the rubble the day of the collapse, and the other bodies were pulled from the wreckage on March 17.
Edward Marquette, a buildings inspector who had falsified a report that claimed he had inspected the East 51st Street crane and found no problems with it, was arrested after he admitted during questioning by the City of New York Department of Investigation (DOI) that he did not complete the inspection.
“Crane inspectors are entrusted by the city with ensuring that cranes are operated in a way that does not compromise the safety of construction workers or the public,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. “This inspector allegedly betrayed that trust at the most fundamental level by not doing an inspection assigned to him and then making a false record indicating that he did.”
Officials stressed, however, that a proper inspection by Marquette probably would not have prevented the crane collapse.
“Based on the preliminary findings of the ongoing investigation, it is unlikely that a March 4 inspection would have prevented this horrific accident, which we continue to believe was caused by human or mechanical error during the crane jumping operation on March 15,” said DOB Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster.
Preliminary reports indicate investigators are focusing on whether the crane was properly braced and if the collar that tied the crane to the building's side was sufficient, as neighborhood residents had complained about the crane appearing “dangerously unstable.”
In response to the March 15 incident, the New York City Council will hold an April 29 hearing to examine whether the city's crane regulations are sufficient for ensuring the safety of both workers and pedestrians.
“We don't yet know all the facts that led to the East Side crane collapse, but we do know that we must take whatever actions in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “Construction is a crucial component of our economy, but we cannot sacrifice safety in the name of development. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all the families that were affected by the tragic accident.”
Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin-Dilan called the accident “a horrible reminder that we can never let down in our pursuit of the best construction site safety standards possible.” He added, “Because of the rapid pace of development, we should proceed more cautiously. We need to know what we can do to keep everyone, workers and residents alike, out of harm's way.”