NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Two construction workers were killed in the Briarwood section of Queens on Tuesday when a steel beam fell onto a crane, the FDNY said.
The workers were building a residential housing complex on 134st Street near the corner of 82nd Avenue.
One worker was inside the cab of the crane, while another stood outside, guiding the 6,500 pound I-beam, FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy said. The crane was hoisting the beam around 12:10 p.m. when it fell from the fourth floor.
The operator was identified as 47-year-old George Smith, of Brooklyn, and the flag man as 43-year-old Alessandro Ramos, of Queens.
The Department of Buildings does not believe wind was a factor, CBS2’s Raegan Medgie reported.
“Based upon an immediate assessment of the evidence, it is unlikely that wind played a role in the incident. At this time, it appears that there was likely a rigging failure that resulted in the beam coming loose and falling to the ground. However, we have not made any final determinations,” Commissioner Rick Chandler said in a statement.
Under new rules the de Blasio administration announced in February, all crawler cranes are to cease operations and go into a “safety mode” whenever sustained winds are forecast to exceed 2o mph and gusts more than 30 mph.
Weather reports suggest the winds were about 20-25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph, 1010 WINS reported.
The Department of Buildings said that specific crane passed inspection in June, and the job to extend the sixth floor of the existing building was approved and had the proper permits.
Joe Musso, of Queens, spoke with some workers who described the gruesome scene.
“The crane was picking up the beam to put the beam where it’s supposed to be,” he said. “The cable snapped, broke, and two guys got stuck and then got caught in the middle of the beam,” he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his condolences on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
“My heart goes out to their families,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the accident a “tragedy” and said the investigation into the incident was still preliminary.
Union representatives arrived on the scene, claiming the contractor put profits over people.
“Our workers and city workers put their lives at risk everyday they go on the job, anything can happen,” Pete Corrigan, of NYC’s District Council of Carpenters, said.
“Today’s incident was preventable and underscores yet again the need for a greater emphasis on construction safety and proper workforce training by the City and real estate industry. The accident occurred on a non-union construction site and while union sites are not immune to tragedy, the evidence is overwhelming that unionized construction sites are safer,” Gary LaBarbera, President
Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said in a statement.
A construction worker from another site told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones the job is getting increasingly dangerous.
“I mean, you know, granted there are some freak accidents that happen on job sites, but you know it’s going on way too much,” he said.