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Crane Operator Suspended for Overloading Rig in Queens Collapse

By  Murray Weiss Joe Parziale and Jeanmarie Evelly | January 10, 2013 2:26pm | Updated on January 10, 2013 6:56pm

LONG ISLAND CITY — The man who was operating the crane that collapsed Wednesday and injured seven workers at a Queens construction site overloaded the rig by tens of thousands of pounds just before the accident, city officials said.

The Department of Buildings suspended the license of crane operator Paul Geer after finding that he was trying to lift a load of 23,900 pounds, more than double the mobile crane's capacity, just before the crane's 170-foot boom crashed to the ground, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said in a statement Thursday.

The crane — owned by the company associated with the 2008 fatal crane collapse on the Upper East Side — collapsed just after 2:20 p.m. Wednesday at 46-10 Center Blvd., the site of a luxury complex being built near the Long Island City waterfront.

A partial stop work order was issued for the site Wednesday night, and on Thursday inspectors remained on scene.

"The preliminary investigation also shows that the operator was unable to see the materials being lifted and was attempting to lift those materials outside of the approved loading zone," LiMandri said in a statement.

The DOB said the rig belonged to New York Crane, which also owned the crane that collapsed on the Upper East Side in 2008, leaving two people dead. A staff member who answered the phone at the company's office Thursday declined to comment, saying “everyone is busy at the moment.”

Workers had just recently started building a 25-story residential tower at the site, which is being developed by TF Cornerstone, one of several luxury buildings in the developer's EastCoastLIC complex.

The site has one open building violation, according to DOB records, issued last October for "failure to safe guard all persons and property affected by construction operation." 

A DOB spokesperson said the incident was minor and involved a worker who tripped over a piece of rebar. Contractors are required by law to report such incidents to the city, the spokesperson said.

TF Cornerstone said in a statement Wednesday that subcontractor Cross Country Construction was building the tower and leased the crane from New York Crane.

"Site safety is always our first priority as it relates to construction, and we are cooperating fully with all relevant authorities to try and determine what caused this occurrence," the statement said.