Pedestrians scatter as fire causes New York construction crane's arm to collapse and crash to street
A towering construction crane caught fire high above the West Side of Manhattan on Wednesday morning, then lost its long arm, which smashed against a nearby building, dangled and plummeted to the street as people ran for their lives on the sidewalk below.
Several people suffered minor injuries, but no one died, according to New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
According to the Department of Buildings, at least nine civilians and two firefighters have suffered injuries.
“As you can see from the debris on the street, this could have been much worse,” the Democrat said at a news conference, noting that the street at that hour of the morning is often filled with pedestrians, cars and buses.
The fire atop the 54-story building was reported around 7:25 a.m. Photos and videos posted on social media showed flames bursting from the engine compartment of a crane hundreds of feet above 10th Avenue at 41st Street. The crane's arm, which was carrying a 16-ton load of concrete, snapped off after the fire had been burning for a period of time.
“That weight of 16 tons is attached by a cable,” said Joseph Pfeifer, first deputy commissioner for the Fire Department of New York. “As the fire heats the cable, the cable weakens to a point where it loses its strength, and that’s where the collapse occurred.”
The person operating the crane tried to put out the fire as it spread, but then had to flee to safety, Pfeifer said. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
A worker at a nearby construction site said everyone stopped and watched as flames engulfed the top of the crane and a column of black smoke rose above buildings.
Within a few minutes, firefighters were shooting water down at the blaze from a balcony of an adjacent building. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
“I never seen anything like that,” said Charles Pescatore, 18, a college helper on a construction site a few blocks away. “It could have killed a bunch of people.”
Delicia McInnis, a Long Island resident who saw the crane come down, said she was surprised no one was seriously injured.
“There’s so many things going on at 7 o’clock in the city, people are going to school, summer camp, there’s always someone around in this area,” she said.
Authorities said they planned to investigate the structural integrity of the building that was under construction.
The location is near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, which carries auto traffic to and from New Jersey under the Hudson River. Streets surrounding the site were closed to traffic Wednesday morning.