NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A piece of a fire escape fell off a building in SoHo on Friday, critically injuring two people on the street below.

The incident took place at 434 Broadway at Howard Street around 1:40 p.m. 

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“That step had fell seven stories, striking a male and female in the head,” FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala Jr. said.

The 50-year-old man and 24-year-old woman were rushed to Bellevue Hospital “with serious, life-threatening injuries.” Police sources said both victims suffered head injuries and the man had a possible skull fracture.

The building was undergoing an inspection of its facade at the time the accident, Gala said.

“I just became aware of it when I saw a kid crying,” said witness Chris Siemer, who works in a nearby store. “I heard a loud noise. I saw maybe a kid 11 years old crying on the corner and his mom was likely aggressively pulling him away. And I looked — yeah, there were two bodies on the floor.”

Scattered pieces of metal and blood could be seen on the sidewalk afterward, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported.

The building inspector, who works for a private contractor, was standing on the fire escape when the step came loose under her, according to Gala.

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“She actually fell partially through the fire escape,” he said. “Thankfully she was able to pull herself up.”

She was evaluated by EMS and refused medical aid.

The sudden afternoon tragedy was cause for reflection.

“How crazy and precious and random and vulnerable life can be, but, I guess, I still gotta walk down the street to get to the train,” Siemer said.

The Department of Buildings responded to the scene, along with the NYPD, FDNY and Office of Emergency Management.

The DOB said it has issued a violation for failure to safeguard the building. It will now also require the building owner to hire fire guards, who will direct people out of the building in the event of a fire instead of using the fire escape.

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The department said the building was last inspected by 2013 and no unsafe conditions were found.