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SPU student among 4 people killed in Seattle crane collapse

Three men and one woman were killed when a crane collapsed at the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue North in Seattle on Saturday afternoon.

A Seattle Fire Department spokesperson said that all four people were dead by the time responders reached the site of the collapse.

“It’s a horrible day in Seattle when something like this happens,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a press conference. “It’s right in the heart of our city, probably most people have driven down this road some time in their lives recently. People were just going on their Saturday way, and just out of the blue, this happened.”

Two of the fatalities are believed to be ironworkers in the process of disassembling the crane, while the other two were each in separate vehicles on the street. One of the fatalities down on the street was a freshman at Seattle Pacific University, Sarah Wong.

SPU released a statement Sunday:

“We are deeply saddened to confirm that one of our students passed away in the crane accident in Seattle on April 27. Sarah Wong was in a car on Mercer Street when the crane fell. She was a freshman with an intended major in nursing and lived on campus. While we grieve the sudden and tragic loss of our precious student, we draw comfort from each other, our strong community of faith, and God’s presence with us in times of sorrow. We ask that the community join us in praying for Sarah’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

We are deeply saddened to confirm that one of our students, Sarah Wong, passed away in the crane accident in Seattle on…

Posted by Seattle Pacific University on Sunday, April 28, 2019

Six total cars were crushed, and four other people were injured. One person was treated on-scene, and three were transported to Harborview Medical Center.

The three transported to the hospital were a 28-year-old man, a 25-year-old mother, and her 4-month old infant. All three were conscious when they arrived at Harborview. The Seattle Times reports that the mother and infant were discharged from the hospital on Saturday. The man remains at the hospital in satisfactory condition.

Road closures

Seattle DOT continues to advise people to avoid the area and use alternate routes. All lanes in both directions of Mercer Street will likely remained closed on Monday morning. SDOT released the following closure information:

Mercer St between Fairview Ave N and Terry Ave N will need to remain closed on Monday morning due to ongoing safety concerns.

WSDOT will close the Mercer St off-ramp from southbound mainline I-5, while westbound Mercer St is closed. Northbound and express lane off-ramps to Mercer St will remain open.

We expect to be able to reopen both directions of Valley St and both directions of Terry Ave N before the start of the morning commute.

Sections of Boren Ave N which have no through access due to the Mercer St closure will remain closed.

The South Lake Union Streetcar will resume operations prior to Monday morning.

Under investigation

It’s unclear what exactly caused the collapse. KIRO 7 meteorologist Morgan Palmer noted that weather conditions at the time were “blustery in passing showers but nothing unusual noted.” Witnesses reported a strong gust of wind around the time the incident happened. Palmer also pointed out that “sudden gusts aren’t uncommon around here on showery days.”

The state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the cause of the collapse.

The last fatal crane collapse in King County happened Nov. 16, 2006 in Bellevue, when a 210-foot crane hit three buildings and killed one man in an apartment.

That crane was located at 108th Avenue and NE Fourth Street, and the crane operator survived. An investigation after the fact revealed a flawed design was the cause in that case, and the following year then-Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a law for stricter regulations of cranes and crane operators.

Construction project

According to The Seattle Times, the crane in this latest collapse sat atop a building that’s part of 607,000 square-foot project expected to house Google. Construction began in 2017 and was expected to be complete this year.

The project is being built by Vulcan Real Estate, which released the following statement:

We have received and confirmed reports of a tower crane accident at our site on the northwest corner of Mercer and Fairview in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

Our deepest sympathies go out to the families who have lost loved ones and our hope is that those who have been injured return to full health as soon as possible.

Our general contractor, GLY, and its sub-contractors are fully cooperating with the authorities investigating this incident.

Daren Konopaski, with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, told The Seattle Times he believed the crane was in the process of being dismantled at the time of the collapse.

“Number one thing is we all want to go home,” Monty Anderson, Executive Secretary of the Construction Trades Council, told KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis. “And there are some dads, fathers, sons who just aren’t today and it’s tragic.”

“Our priority now is shifted to taking care of the families of the fallen members,” Anderson added. “We’re here to do a lot of comforting, talking and everything you can do to try to make sure the people that did survive here go home in a space where they’re not — I would assume many are in shock.”

GLY Construction, the contractor on the project, released the follow statement:

“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by what happened at our job site on the northwest corner of Mercer and Fairview in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Our sympathy and deepest condolences go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed in this tragic accident. We are hopeful for those who have been injured and wish that they return to full health as quickly as possible.

GLY and its sub-contractors involved with this tower crane accident are doing everything we can to investigate the incident. We are cooperating fully with investigators and assisting the local authorities. At this early stage of the investigation, we have no further details. We will share additional information as it becomes available. All inquiries regarding the tower crane accident should be directed to the authorities at this time.”

KIRO 7 TV contributed to this report.

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