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New York crane smashes through apartment block

Lack of redundancy in the support bracing system was this week identified as the likely cause of a deadly tower crane collapse in New York City.

It has emerged that retired contractor and local resident Bruce Silberblatt had lodged a formal complaint with the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) a week and a half before the crane collapsed, arguing that contractors had failed use enough bracing to support the crane.

Six construction workers and one member of the public died, 24 were injured and seven neighbouring Manhattan buildings were damaged when the tower crane’s 61m tall mast broke free of steel braces and crashed into an apartment block opposite the site on East 51st Street.

“There should have been more bracing. There was no redundancy that was the problem,” said Silberblatt. “Redundancy has to be brought back into common practice in the whole of the US, not just in New York.”

Silberblatt’s complaint is one of 38 lodged with the DOB since 2005 over the construction of the 43-storey apartment block that the crane was to work on.

The DOB released a statement saying that a heavy-duty steel collar, which should have been firmly attached to brace struts on the crane on the 18th floor had fallen from the building before the collapse. This damaged other crane supports as it fell.

“Workers were adding tower sections to extend the crane upwards,” says the statement.

“While crews were jumping the crane to the 18th floor, a heavy-duty steel collar, which wrapped around the mast of the crane and used to tie the crane to the side of the building, fell as workers attempted to install it.

“When the steel collar fell, it damaged a lower steel collar, installed at the 9th floor.”

This collar served as a major anchor securing the tower crane to the building under construction. Without it, the 61m tall mast fell.

Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer said: “It’s clear that the current Buildings Department construction safety oversight protocol is not working, and we can’t keep going on like this.”

Forensic engineers from the DOB are currently trying to determine whether mechanical failure played any part in the incident.

Reliance Construction Group, the project managers for the site refused to comment on the collapse, as did a spokesman for crane supplier the New York Crane & Equipment Corporation.

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