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New York halts all use of cranes

Two construction workers are killed in the latest collapse. The city wants time to investigate the cause.

May 31, 2008|Michael Frazier and Rocco Parascandola | Newsday

NEW YORK — Officials suspended all crane operations throughout the city this weekend while they investigated the cause of the latest crane collapse, which killed two construction workers Friday and badly injured a third as it crashed into an apartment building and plummeted to the street.

The collapse -- at a site the city had investigated several times -- comes after a March 15 crane disaster that killed seven people. That prompted stepped-up inspections and the resignation of the buildings commissioner.

Acting Commissioner Robert LiMandri suspended all city crane operations until Monday.

The latest accident happened just past 8 a.m. at a site where workers have erected 13 floors of what is to be a 32-story residential building.

The crane snapped from its turntable about 200 feet above street level, its cab, boom and machine deck crashing into an apartment building across the street, authorities said.

No one in the building was hurt. But crane operator Donald Leo, 30, was dead by the time rescuers removed him from the cab.

Leonard Lorusso and his girlfriend, Lauren Dunn, lived in the building struck by the crane. "We just heard metal and scraping, and it was so loud," Lorusso said.

The crane crushed a top-floor apartment, gouged the side of the building and showered the street below with chunks of balconies and pulverized brick.

The crane's turntable will be analyzed for mechanical failure, said a city buildings official who requested anonymity.

LiMandri said a weld that failed was a key part of the investigation.

A second construction worker, Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, was pinned beneath part of the crane that hit the ground with such force that it penetrated the street several feet.

"He had a pulse and he was breathing, but he was unresponsive," Fire Lt. Stephen Hagan said. "We had to use air bags to lift the crane off him."

Kurtaj later went into cardiac arrest and died at a hospital.

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Newsday staff writer Andrew Strickler contributed to this report.

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