New York City

Crane catches fire atop NYC skyscraper and collapses, injuring 12

The investigation into what sparked the fire and sent the crane arm tumbling to the ground is under investigation

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What to Know

  • A crane on top of a Manhattan skyscraper partially collapsed after it broke out in flames, sending black smoke billowing into the air more than 40 stories above the ground, video showed.
  • The crane was on a building on Tenth Avenue between West 41st and 42nd streets in Hell's Kitchen, according to city officials, just a few blocks from Times Square
  • A total of 12 people, including two firefighters as well as workers who were outside the building at the time, suffered injuries as a result, fire department officials said. A civilian and a firefighter each suffered serious injuries, though both are expected to recover. All the others suffered minor injuries.

A crane on top of a Manhattan skyscraper partially collapsed after it broke out in flames, sending black smoke billowing into the air more than 40 stories above the ground, video showed.

The crane was on a building on Tenth Avenue between West 41st and 42nd streets in Hell's Kitchen, according to city officials, just a few blocks from Times Square. Crews received a call about a fire in the engine compartment of the crane just before 7:30 a.m.

As they were en route to the scene, the arm of the crane collapsed, fire officials said. Video showed the outermost portion of the crane striking a building across the street, sending debris flying. Then the arm slammed into the tower before plummeting down onto scaffolding and the street below, sending people running.

"The top part of the crane, the boom, and a 16-ton load crashed to the ground,” said FDNY Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer.

A fire broke out resulting in a crane falling which injured around 11 people. Chris Glorioso reporting

A crane operator was bringing 16 tons of concrete up when he spotted the fire break out, according to Pfeifer. The worker tried to extinguish the flames, but the fire overwhelmed him and he had to leave. The worker was not hurt, Pfeifer said.

"That weight of 16 tons is attached by a cable. As the fire heats the cable, the cable weakens, to the point where it loses its strength, and that’s where the collapse occurred," said Pfeifer.

A total of 12 people, including three firefighters as well as workers who were outside the building at the time, suffered injuries as a result, fire department officials said. A civilian and a firefighter each suffered serious injuries, though both are expected to recover. All the others suffered minor injuries.

Fire crews were seen spraying the crane with water from above and below, hitting it with a hose from a building nearby. Pfeifer said drone footage showed the fire was nearly extinguished just before 9 a.m., leaving a charred cab about 45 stories in the air.

FDNY officials said heads up thinking by the crane operator may have saved lives.

“That crane operator saw the fire started and tried to extinguish it. We give a lot of credit to the crane operator but the fire overwhelmed and he had to exit the crane," Pfeifer said.

“This could’ve been much worse,” said Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference, adding that city agencies would start the process of dismantling the crane. “We were extremely fortunate that we were not at the busy time of the day."

The building the crane is atop of is currently under construction. The Department of Buildings said it is intended to be a 45-story, mixed-use building. It was not immediately clear if anyone was in the building at the time of the crane fire and collapse, or if the building itself sustained any damage.

Inspectors and engineers from the city who have since examined the structure say the crane and 10th Avenue building it sits atop remain structurally stable. The preliminary DOB investigation found no buildings involved in the collapse, including the neighboring occupied tower hit by the crane arm, suffered structural damage. "Small areas" of hanging debris at risk of falling to the ground has been earmarked for removal to further secure the site, the DOB said.

The department's inspectors had been to the construction site three time since the beginning of June: once when the height of the crane was increased, once during an unannounced inspection sweep of tower cranes across the city, and 16 days ago during a routine inspection.

The general contractor and crane company appear to have all necessary and relevant permits in order, they added.

The crane is owned by the New York Crane & Equipment Corp., one of the city’s most widely used crane providers, officials said. The Queens-based company has been involved in other crane problems in recent years, leading to criminal charges and new safety measures around New York City’s crane operations.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In May of 2008, a collapse of the company's tower crane killed two workers on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The company and its owner, James Lomma, were acquitted of manslaughter and other charges; a mechanic pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

It was one of two deadly crane accidents in 2008, leading to the resignation of the city's buildings commissioner, as well as new safety measures around testing and oversight of crane operations.

More than 200 firefighters and EMS responded to the scene. Streets in the area were closed to traffic, and all buildings in the area were evacuated afterward.

Hotel guests staying along 10th Avenue in the impacted zone found themselves packing up and in search of new quarters Wednesday night.

What sparked the fire was not immediately clear, Adams said. An investigation, and the cleanup, is ongoing.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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