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Investigation, construction continue after deadly crane collapse
[July 24, 2008]

Investigation, construction continue after deadly crane collapse

(The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jul. 24--UPDATED 6:15 p.m. NORMAL -- Work resumed Thursday at the north Normal construction site where a 33-year-old ironworker was killed Wednesday, and officials said it could take a month or longer to determine what caused the crane collapse that crushed him. |

Joshua Dawe, 33, of Topeka was in the basket of an aerial lift Wednesday morning when a crawler crane's boom, which was being used to set girders and joists, collapsed onto the basket. Dawe, who was alone in the basket, was killed instantly, authorities said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the coroner's office on Thursday were continuing their investigation into the collapse, the latest in a series of fatal crane accidents across the U.S., the latest coming Thursday in Oklahoma City. One person was killed and a second injured in that incident.

Meanwhile, work at the new Wildwood Industries logistics center under construction continued in limited form Thursday, mostly on the exterior of what will be a 500,000-square-foot building.

"Everybody out there knew this young man," said Bill Johnston of Johnston Contractors. "These people are suffering, but they're doing what they need to do."

Dawe, who had been with Iron Workers Local 112 since 1999, leaves behind a fiancee, Jennifer Clark, and an infant daughter, Joslyn Dawe of Topeka, in Mason County.

The collapse damaged one of the prefabricated concrete walls already in place as well as some metal beams in place for the roof. The town of Normal and OSHA had staff on site Thursday to "make sure everyone was on the same page" as cleanup progresses with Johnston and crane-operation subcontractor Area Erectors, said Scot Williams, plans examiner and inspector for the town of Normal.

Gary Wilder, Wildwood's president and chief executive officer, said the collapse was not expected to caused a significant construction delay. The project, set for completion Oct. 1, had already been hit with weather-related delays that helped set it back four to five weeks, including an April wind storm that knocked down part of a concrete wall.

About the investigation

While OSHA officials declined to give specifics on their investigation, they said similar probes typically start with a look at the daily and annual inspections, move on to interviews with crew members and go from there, said Barry Salerno, acting area director of OSHA's Peoria office.

The crane was a 110-ton capacity Link-Belt crawler crane being operated by an Area Erectors crew, Johnston said. A message left with an Area Erectors spokesman on Thursday was not returned.

Beyond simply not picking up a load that's too heavy, the most common causes for crawler-crane failures involve wind and the machine being operated on an unlevel surface, said Steven Smith, a forensic engineer and Washington, D.C.-based group manager for CTLGroup, a structural, architectural and engineering consulting firm based in Skokie.

While those types of failures largely come down to human factors, investigators also would look at the crane's design and condition before the collapse, said Smith, who has been a part of several investigations into similar accidents across the U.S.

Crane-safety oversight

Several officials said Thursday that the contractors themselves are largely responsible for oversight of crane-operation safety on a daily basis. OSHA has specific training requirements but no standardized certification system, Salerno said, and the town of Normal doesn't have requirements beyond that.

While Normal building-inspection staff rountinely visit construction sites, their primary concern is what's being constructed, not necessarily work-place safety, said Greg Troemel, director of Normal's Building Inspection Division.

But town staff said they would raise concerns if a unsafe condition was obvious. Williams said that although it's unclear if and how town policy will change in light of Wednesday's accident, staff in the short term would be taking a closer look at contractors' maintenance schedules to make sure they're filled out correctly.

It remains to be seen if recent fatal crane accidents -- in New York, Las Vegas, Houston and the one Thursday in Oklahoma -- show any statistical significance, Smith said.

But with increased scrutiny on crane safety comes discussions about setting a standardized and nationwide certification process and equipping more cranes with tracking and "black box"-style technology, among other changes, he said.


How to help

Memorial contributions on behalf of Joshua Dawe can be made to the Joslyn E. Dawe Education Fund in care of CEFCU. More information can be found at .

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