1 worker dead in Texas crane collapse

July 30, 2008 6:42:38 PM PDT
One worker is dead and another is injured after an overloaded crane toppled on a bridge over the Colorado River in Central Texas. The crane smashed into a raised basket where the two men were working, knocking one off and killing him, said Smithville police Lt. Lonny Richardson. The man, identified as 47-year-old James Michael Miles, fell about 60 feet from the top of the old bridge and landed on construction equipment, Richardson said.

The bridge is about 75 feet above the Colorado River in Smithville in central Texas.

The workers were trying to loosen the joints of one beam, or girder, when another beam also became loose and caused the crane to topple, said Marcus Cooper, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman.

The operator of the crane managed to get out of the way "when things started going bad" and wasn't injured, Richardson said. The two men in the lift basket wore safety belts, and the injured worker remained tethered to the basket with his belt after the accident, he said.

The condition of the injured worker at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin wasn't immediately available. Richardson said he was in his 40s and from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Richardson said both men were in their 40s and from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The crane tumbled from what appeared to a manmade gravel base and landed partly in the water. The bridge being dismantled has been replaced by a new bridge nearby.

Capital Excavation of Austin, the primary contractor, didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday. The employees both worked for Stomper Demolition in Euless, but the company didn't own the crane, general manager Ray Tupper said.

When the crane toppled on the riverbed, a small amount of oil spilled into the river, but booms were in place to clean it up.

Richardson said the spill likely has been contained.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, construction company officials and insurance company representatives were arriving to investigated. Police said the earliest the crane would be moved would be Thursday.

Several deadly crane accidents have occurred nationally this year, including one in Houston this month that killed four workers and injured seven. Crane-related deaths have also occurred in New York, Miami and Las Vegas.

Texas led the nation with 26 crane-related fatalities in 2005 and 2006, according to federal statistics. Cranes in Texas operate without any state or local oversight, leaving that job to federal regulators.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-07-30-08 2107EDT


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