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Collapsed crane on Mercer passed two safety inspections since 2017

Police stop traffic after a late-April crane collapse in Seattle. (AP/Joe Nicholson)

The doomed crane that toppled in Seattle last Saturday was safety-certified twice since July 2017, according to documents from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

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The tower crane passed an initial inspection in July, when it was first assembled at a construction site near South Lake Union. A second safety inspection happened a year later in June 2018.

“It shows that twice in the past couple of years this piece of machinery was very closely looked at,” said Tim Church, spokesman for L&I, the agency leading the investigation into the deadly accident.

State law requires third-party inspectors to certify cranes at least once a year, or any time they’re moved and built up again, according to L&I. Certification records show the collapsed crane had no faulty equipment and passed several safety tests in 2018.

“There were test runs on it and load tests, and … it was certified to be a safe, functioning crane at the time those certifications happened,” Church noted.

L&I has finished its on-scene investigation at Mercer Street and Fairview Ave in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, where four people were killed and four others injured after a crane toppled into the street last Saturday afternoon.

Investigators are currently honing in on a handful of aspects regarding the incident, chief among them, the five contractors responsible for the crane. That includes the general contractor, the crane provider, the employer of the tower crane operator, and the two companies involved with disassembling the crane.

An accident report could take as many as six months to complete before a cause is determined.

According to Church, L&I has two lead investigators, both of whom are former crane operators. Over the next few months, they will be gathering computer data, talking to witnesses, and reviewing video evidence.

“Once we have a conclusion, we will meet with the companies involved, we will spell out what we found, we’ll let them know if we found any safety violations, if they’re being cited or penalized, and once we do that, that information is public for everyone to see what happened,” described Church.

GLY, the contractor on the project responsible for the crane, noted that it is “cooperating fully” with local authorities as they continue to look into the incident.

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