Report: Suspicions focus on missing pins from Seattle crane collapse
A formal investigation is underway, but suspicions around the fatal crane collapse in Seattle last month are focused on the structure’s pins and incorrect disassembling practices.
“The way it fell apart, you’ve’ seen videos of it, the fact those guys in the cab shot off like a missile, then there’s a section right underneath it, shot off like a missile,” Tom said on the Tom and Curley Show. “That wouldn’t be happening if they were bolted (together) … clearly the things connecting all these pieces together were not there…”
Experts who spoke to The Seattle Times focused on the structure’s pins, which help hold all sections of the crane together. Generally, one section of a crane is hooked up to another crane to dismantle it, then the pins are removed from that section, then the section is lifted away.
Speculation is that pins from multiple sections of the crane were removed to save time. One expert told the newspaper that “it’s blatantly obvious they removed the pins,” despite only seeing dash cam footage of the incident. “To save a couple hours, that’s the only reason,” another person said.
That speculation partially comes from how the crane collapsed, with sections separating as the crane fell. The Times reports that the practice of removing multiple pins in advance is common practice in the industry, even if it’s not officially the way things are supposed to be done.
“Unfortunately, they cite someone else (in The Times), that this has become standard practice, it is not according to manufacturing practice, but it’s a standard practice,” Tom said. “Because it saves time, and when you save time you save money.”
This aligns with reporting from KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis shortly after the tragedy. As Lewis reported:
…on the Mercer accident at the Google building project, no pins — broken, sheared or otherwise — were found on the arms or in the debris field by people on scene afterwards. This has led inspectors to speculate that the pins might have been removed prior to the disassembly crane being attached as a backup.
The other factor that could have contributed to the collapse is the presence of heavy winds that day. University of Washington Weather Expert Cliff Mass has noted that the winds leading up to the collapse were significant, and likely sped up as they moved over Lake Union, leading to the crane site. Lewis’ previous report noted:
Coupled with the sudden and unexpected wind gusts, the sections of structure might have been loose and left vulnerable to collapsing, sources said, because they were not already anchored to the take-down crane.
The investigation into the crane collapse continues. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is leading the investigation. No official cause of the incident has been identified.