MTA Suspends Work at Site of Fatal Crane Collapse
By Mathew Katz, Sonja Sharp, Jill Colvin and Nick Rizzi
MANHATTAN — The MTA suspended all work on its 7 train extension site in Hell's Kitchen after a crane collapse killed a worker and injured several others Tuesday night.
Representatives from the transit agency, along with the NYPD, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Manhattan District Attorney's office and the Department of Buildings were at the 34th Street site Wednesday morning to begin what could be a weeks-long investigation into the incident.
"OSHA has opened an inspection and is on site," said Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Department of Labor, which oversees the agency. "This OSHA inspection is to determine what are the applicable workplace safety standards are and whether or not employers violated any of them."
The 40- and 80-foot sections of the crane — which had a 170-foot-long boom — crashed to the ground shortly after 7:20 p.m. at the site on 34th Street and 11th Avenue, fire officials said. Fire officials said that the accident was likely the result of a snapped cable.
Construction worker Michael Simmermeyer, 30, of Burlington, N.J., who worked for subcontractor J & E Industries LLC, was killed in the incident, police said. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital Tuesday night where he was pronounced dead.
Simmermeyer's friends said Wednesday that the worker had worked at the World Trade Center site in the fall before moving onto the 7 train project.
"I know he felt good about the jobs," said Tim Kugler, a friend who went to Burlington City High School with Simmermeyer. "He was a hard worker. He was reliable."
Kugler said Simmermeyer had moved from his family's house in Burlington in order to have an easier commute to work.
He added that Simmermeyer was known for helping out around the neighborhood, shoveling snow in the winter and helping to take care of an elderly couple nearby.
"He was a good guy," Kugler said. "Someone who would do anything for anybody."
At an afternoon press conference at the accident site Wednesday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for greater city oversight over MTA construction sites. Right now, city inspectors can only come onto sites under state supervision if they are invited.
Asked about the crane accident at an unrelated press conference Wednesday in Queens, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the investigation is ongoing.
"I don't know what happened," he told reporters when asked about the accident Wednesday. "Our prayers have to go out to their family."
Bloomberg said that the investigation is still ongoing, but stressed the MTA's safety record.
"The MTA, I will say, runs projects very well. The MTA does have a good record," he said, citing recent "aggressive reforms" to construction and crane safety rules.
He also defended the city's push to change crane operator rules to allow operators to take national safety exams, which, he said, "We think makes an awful lot of sense, given the diversity of cranes."
According to the MTA, the Manitowoc 4100 crane was owned and operated by Yonkers Contracting Company Inc., which has done repair and construction work on several iconic New York buildings, including Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Yonkers Contracting did not respond to multiple calls for comment.