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Why do crane accidents happen?

This morning, a crane collapse in TriBeCa left one man dead, two people seriously injured and a fourth with minor injuries. There was property damage too. As it fell, the crane clipped at least one building and crushed a row of parked cars. The force of the collapse caused a water main break, as well as a possible gas main break.

Reports say that the crane, which was owned by Bay Crane and operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging, had previously operated as high as 20 stories. It was being moved into a secure position because of high winds when the incident occurred. Workers had blocked off traffic and pedestrians for the move, which probably helped prevent more injuries.

Crane accidents happen for a variety of reasons, and it is too early to officially declare why this crane fell. The severe weather conditions - snow and winds that reached 20 miles per hour - were likely a major factor.

Crane accidents often occur because workers extend the crane boom beyond manufacturer's specifications. Overextension can impact the crane's capacity to carry loads and put too much pressure on mechanical, hydraulic and structural components of the crane. However, that is probably not the case here. It is reported that an inspector with the Department of Buildings had been on the site Thursday because workers were extending the crane. The DOB reviewed the work and approved it.

Uneven ground conditions can also be a factor in crane accidents. So can interference with other structures, like power lines. Worker error should also be considered. So should the presence of dangerous or defective crane parts.

Regardless of why the accident happened, two things are clear: First, it was a tragedy for all those involved, including the injury victims, their families and friends. Second, thorough investigation will be necessary to determine exactly why the accident happened and how other accidents like it can be prevented in the future.

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