A large building crane crashed across the northbound lanes of the 405 Freeway in Sherman Oaks on Friday, closing one of the region's busiest roadways for more than three hours and causing traffic to clog along radiating arteries for miles around.
The crane operator was pinned in his cab and seriously injured in the collapse, and two motorists were hurt when their vehicles crashed into each other and then into the arm of the crane.
The crane collapsed about 1 p.m. just south of the intersection of the 405 and the Ventura Freeway, an interchange known as one of the busiest in the nation. Traffic on the 405 backed up through the Sepulveda Pass and as far south as Manchester Avenue, near Los Angeles International Airport -- a span of 15 miles.
Traffic also jammed on the Ventura Freeway, Ventura Boulevard, Mulholland Drive and other roads. Northbound lanes remained closed until just after 4 p.m.
Los Angeles Fire Department crews worked for nearly an hour to free the crane operator, who was pinned in his cab between the crane and a portable generator, according to Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. The man, Matt Dinaso, 44, of Sylmar was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center with broken ribs and other injuries that Humphrey said were "serious but not life-threatening."
"I would characterize him as very fortunate to be alive," the fire spokesman added.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. The crane was being used for a road improvement project on the 405, and was operated by Steve P. Rados Inc., a Santa Ana-based heavy-construction contractor hired by the California Department of Transportation.
Neither the California Highway Patrol nor Caltrans could say what caused the crane arm to fall. A spokesman for Cal/OSHA, the state workplace safety agency, said the crane arm was not carrying a load.
By the time the company was identified Friday evening, Rados officials had left their office for the day and could not be reached for comment.
The CHP and Cal/OSHA are investigating the accident, agency spokesmen said.