GRAND VIEW-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One lane of the Tappan Zee Bridge remained closed late Wednesday, as investigators sought answers to questions about what caused a construction crane to collapse across the span.
The 256-foot tall crane from the new Tappan Zee Bridge came crashing down onto the existing bridge around noon Tuesday. As CSB2’s Lou Young reported, the accident caused massive delays and major detours for a heavily-traveled part of the Tri-State Area.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the crane was a new piece of equipment and was driving piles into the new bridge when it collapsed.
A day later, investigators were seen in the cab of the cripple crane where it dropped its massive boom across the old bridge. They were looking into whether it was operator error or if the equipment malfunctioned.
The southernmost lane of the bridge – which sustained structural damage – remained closed. Meanwhile, motorists remained perplexed about what the explanation for the accident could possibly be.
“Are you kidding me?” one man said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable to me.”
“In 25 years of law enforcement, I have never seen a crane cut off a bridge like that,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
Day said a traffic diversion plan went into effect on both sides of the river immediately after the crane fell. The plan was created years ago in anticipation of problems with the aging bridge.
“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re not allowing cars to come right into a problem area. We’re looking to stop that; disperse them,” Day said.
Drivers on the New York State Thruway were sent north or south well before the bridge approach.
The fact that a crane helping to build the replacement spans caused the blockage seemed like an irony to some. The construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge is the largest public works project in the country, and local, state and federal officials are anxious to find out what went wrong.
“Engineers are on their way to New York, and they’re going to do a complete investigation as to why the crane collapsed,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “No one actually knows.”
Concerned drivers like Wayne Vines were questioning why the crane collapse happened in the first place.
“It really shouldn’t happen but it’s happening,” he said. “Whether they’re overloaded as far as inspecting it or whether it’s the crane for stretching the heavy load.”
Other commuters hope the investigation will give answers.
“I just hope they’re going to make sure things are more safe,” said Bronx resident Andy Alli. “To come across the bridge, I would hate for something like that to happen and hit me or anybody else.”
Following the collapse on Tuesday, Cuomo said it was miraculous that only four people suffered minor injuries. Two cars crashed trying to avoid the crane and three people suffered “very minor injuries,” Cuomo said.
“This could have been a real tragedy,” he said.
One construction worker also suffered minor injuries, according to Cuomo’s office. The crane operator was not injured.
The scene of twisted metal strewn across the span was frightening for drivers who narrowly escaped.
“Just to know it could have been me in a matter of seconds,” said witness Balam Arana.
One driver said when the boom fell, it seemed to come down in slow motion, allowing drivers to stop and swerve out of the way, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported.
But when it hit, it shook the old bridge.
“A very loud rumble,” said witness Michael Simboli. “It was almost earthquake-like.”
Terry Towle, the president of Tappan Zee Constructors, said the new crane was vibrating steel pilings when it collapsed.
“The crane holds up a vibratory hammer. The hammer weighs 121,000 pounds and it vibrates the pile into the mud,” he said. “It’s a routine task that we performed thousands of times out here.”
The incident left drivers stranded in their vehicles for hours in miles of backups. Rachel Rosado sat in a beach chair while waiting on the span until everyone was rerouted.
Construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge has been underway for three years. The $3.9 billion project, which is being built alongside the old span, is expected to be completed by 2018.
In March, three crew members were killed when their 90-foot tugboat sank after it hit a construction barge near the bridge site.
ge near the bridge site.