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Crane crash no bar to Cardiff lift

CARDIFF MILLENNIUM Stadium contractor John Laing this week confirmed that installation of retractable roof panels will continue as normal, despite the collapse of a massive crane during a similar procedure in the United States.

The accident, at the new 43,000 capacity Milwaukee Brewers baseball stadium in Wisconsin last Wednesday, left three steel workers dead and five injured.

Higher than expected wind speeds are suspected to have caused the 190m tall, 1,500t mobile crane known as 'Big Blue' to fail while lifting a 400t open lattice section of the retractable roof into place.

Laing is carrying out similar lifts at the £121M Millennium Stadium to construct its 8,000t sliding steel roof. It has already installed the main structural steelwork and is mid way through placing the ten 100t covering steel panels. But a spokeswoman said the company would not be reviewing its safety procedures in the light of the collapse.

'Our project team is aware of the accident but we will not change anything because our lift was subject to a detailed load study before we started,' she said.

The tragedy in the US has shocked the city of Milwaukee, where the size of Big Blue had made it a tourist attraction. Witnesses claimed the crane failed in winds of around 45km/h when the roof panel was within 3m of its final resting position.

The men who died were guiding the roof segment into position while suspended in a basket by a second, smaller crane. They fell 100m to the ground when the jib of their crane was cut down by the collapse.

Assistant area director for the American Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Jim Dollins, said a full investigation was now being carried out.

'We cannot release any information about the cause of the accident at the moment but we have compliance officers on site looking at the evidence and talking to witnesses,' he said.

Big Blue's manufacturer and owner Lampsom, whose staff were also operating the crane, claimed the accident was due to windy conditions during the lift. A spokesman said: 'It appears that wind was a major factor. Our crane was performing very well and there is no suggestion that it failed prematurely due to a structural fault.'

The spokesman refused to say what the maximum operating wind speed should have been and said only that it 'varied from job to job according to the configuration that the crane is assembled in and the size of the load.'

The accident partially destroyed the western side of the stadium and forced engineers to close the adjacent older stadium amid fears of damage caused by shock waves.

Completion of the £160M new stadium could now be delayed beyond the start of the baseball season in April next year. The main contractor for the roof, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was unavailable for comment as NCE went to press.

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