Construction firms fined $107K in 'totally avoidable' crane collapse that killed four

Three firms have been fined for multiple safety violations linked to the deadly collapse of a crane in a Seattle neighborhood favored by tech firms.

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The equipment toppled in a wind gust on April 27 because workers disassembling it prematurely removed pins securing sections of the mast, contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions, according to findings from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, which called the incident “totally avoidable.”

“If the companies on site had followed the rules, the crane would not have fallen,” Joel Sacks, the agency's director, said at a news conference.

Sections of the crane, which had been installed for construction of a Google office building, landed on the structure itself and toppled into the traffic on a street below, striking six vehicles. Two ironworkers on the crane were killed, along with two people in cars. Four others were injured.

Fire and police crews work to clear the scene where a construction crane fell from a building on Google's new Seattle campus. (AP Photo/Frank Kuin)

(Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune via AP)

"This tragic event must not be repeated," Sacks said. "We expect all companies to follow manufacturers' procedures and have a single point of authority overseeing crane assembly or disassembly. There has to be one person on site who knows the rules and is in charge."

The penalized firms, which were fined a collective $107,200, were among five reviewed after the accident.

Oregon-based Morrow Equipment Co., which supplied the crane, was fined $70,000. As the on-site expert, regulators said Morrow should have ensured the manufacturer's instructions were followed.

Two other firms were cited for violations including not having a supervisor present and inadequate training. General contractor GLY was fined $25,000, and Northwest Tower Crane Service Inc., which provided the crew, was fined $12,000.

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The companies have 15 days to appeal. Morrow didn't respond to emails seeking comment from FOX Business, and Northwest Tower Crane Service declined to comment.

In an emailed statement, GLY President Ted Herb said the Bellevue-based company was deeply concerned by the collapse, cooperated with the state’s investigators and had already made changes.

Herb said the company will “do everything possible to protect our workers and the community.”

Seaburg Construction and Omega Rigging and Machinery were cleared, officials said.

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Brian Haight, crane program manager with the state regulator, said that the manufacturer’s instructions call for the crane to be dismantled in sections. As a secondary crane is attached to the top of the section being removed, workers pull the pins for that section only, leaving the rest of the tower secure. The pins are about 16 inches (40 cm) long and weigh 26 pounds (11.79 kilograms).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.