Crane collapses in New York City; at least 1 dead - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Crane collapses in New York City; at least 1 dead

(CNN) (CNN)

NEW YORK (AP) - A construction crane collapsed Friday on New York's Upper East Side, smashing into a 23-story apartment building as it fell to the ground, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring two others.

It was the second deadly crane accident in 2½ months in the city, which is undergoing a building boom. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the latest collapse was "unacceptable," and the city would investigate.

At a news conference, Bloomberg said one of the casualties was in the cab of the crane and a second was on the street. He said he didn't know about the third person and didn't say who was killed.

The mayor said seven buildings have been evacuated as a precaution following the collapse.

"The sound was like a thunder clap. Then, an earthquake," said Peter Barba, who lives on the seventh floor of the damaged building across the street from where workers were erecting a luxury apartment tower.

One body was brought out of the rubble at East 91st Street and First Avenue, placed on a gurney and covered in a white sheet. A construction worker knelt over the stretcher, gently stroking the sheet.

It wasn't immediately clear whether there were additional fatalities.

Crews pulled others out of the wreckage, the Fire Department said. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Firefighters and rescue workers continued to search through the tangled wreckage.

A construction worker, Simeon Alexis, was taken to a hospital with his "chest slashed open," foreman Scott Bair said.

His eyes filled with tears, Bair said his own life was saved because he left to get an egg sandwich a block away just before the collapse. "I thought, I'm hungry, and I want to go get something to eat - and that saved my life," he said.

He said he ran to the construction site, took a roll call of his 40 workers and discovered Alexis was missing.

"Everyone was shook up and crying," he said. "These are some hardened men, but they were crying."

Barba said it appeared the entire cab came off the crane; its main arm hit the penthouse of his building, then "took out the northeast corner," he said.

Video from the scene showed the upper-floor balconies of the apartment building were severely damaged and a hole extended several stories down the side of the building.

Chaos enveloped the largely residential neighborhood of town houses and apartment high-rises as dozens of emergency vehicles raced to the scene during the morning rush hour.       Robert Lopez, manager of a Duane Reade pharmacy on the ground floor of the building that was hit, said he was 10 feet from the window when he heard "a big boom."

"Everybody was yelling and running and calling 911," he said. When he looked out again, he saw part of the crane had landed just feet from the window where he had been standing.

Brian Nurenberg, 37, was playing indoor tennis two blocks away when he heard the crash.

"It was a couple of loud sort of bangs, high in the air," he said. "It sounded catastrophic, and that's from two blocks away."

The neighborhood, not far from the mayor's official residence, Gracie Mansion, has undergone a construction boom in recent years, with high-rises swiftly replacing older, low-rise brownstones.

Full of bars and casual restaurants, the neighborhood is populated with a mix of retirees, students and young professionals. Until recently, it had been considered one of Manhattan's more affordable neighborhoods.

In the March 15 accident about 2 miles to the south, contractors building a 46-story condominium near the United Nations were trying to lengthen the crane when a steel support broke, killing seven people.

A four-story town house was demolished and several other buildings were damaged.

A city inspector resigned after his arrest on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.

In April, the city's buildings commissioner resigned, under fire over a rising number of deadly construction accidents that have left more than 26 construction workers dead in the past year.

Since then, the city has added extra inspections at building sites and required that its staff be on hand whenever the towering cranes were raised higher, a process known as a jump. Those procedures are still being revised.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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