Man killed in Philly lift accident identified

CENTER CITY - October 12, 2009 RELATED SLIDESHOW: Pictures of the Center City accident
RELATED VIDEO: Watch John Rawlins' report from Action News

It happened around 1:15 on Monday afternoon.

James Wilson, 41, was operating a construction lift to work on a church roof on the 100 block of S. 21st Street near Walnut Street.

The machine drove over a sidewalk grate, slowly toppling 125 feet to the ground.

Witnesses say the grate gave way.

Wilson was killed in the fall. A co-worker says Wilson is a married father from New Jersey and worked for the masonry company for more than 20 years.

"It took forever for him to fall over," said Robert Lee, a construction worker on a nearby project. "He didn't scream. He was just trying to work the controls."

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said rescuers had to cut the crane worker from the harness and transport him to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Three others were also taken to the hospital: A 70 year old woman with broken bones who was hit by falling bricks; a 67-year-old woman with head injuries; and a 74-year-old man with no apparent injuries but was transported as a precaution. All three went to HUP.

"It sounded like an earthquake"

Lisa Callahan was in a neighboring building and said, the crash "sounded like an earthquake."

"It was like a boom and then it sounded like a lot of things just dropping and breaking. And then we heard a woman screaming," said Gayle Sproul, an attorney whose office is across the street.

"It's really lucky that it's Columbus Day because the traffic is really limited," she said. "The angle of the way it came down it would have just flattened anything on the sidewalk."

Sproul said she noticed the lift, with its arm extended, when she came to work. Two workers on the platform appeared to be cleaning the parapets on a church.

Apartment building evacuated

The crane damaged part of an apartment building as it fell, and that building has been evacuated. The Red Cross is providing the residents with food, water and clothing.

They are hoping to have all residents back in their homes by tonight, however they will provide food, water, shelter and clothing if this is not possible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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