November 2, 2020 | Susan Napier-Sewell

A Two-Crane Collision Caused Multiple Injuries: Sorting Out the Incident

An Austin, Texas, construction site was the site of an early morning collision as two cranes became entangled on September 16, 2020. The incident injured 22 people.

At a on-site news conference, Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Bridges said to the press, “This just happened to be two cranes working, we’re not sure how or why, but they did get entangled,” he said. “Since they are attached at the top, we don’t want the wind to cause further problems.”

He added, “Right now, no one is trapped or injured and we are doing our best to monitor the scene.”

We also learned that all injured persons were employees from the mixed-use development, known as the Mueller complex.

A safety provision was enacted by one of the crane operators who stayed on his crane to apply a “secondary safety measure” 

Two hours after the cranes became entangled, one of the crane operators was still on his crane applying his foot to the brake in case the mechanical crane lock—which was still functioning—stopped working, as Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Bridges summed up to the press. Bridges added that the active crane operator was not injured and did not need rescuing.

“If we thought he was in any kind of danger, we would attempt some kind of rescue,” Bridges said. “He’s not in any danger. Right now he’s providing secondary safety.”

Officials urged people to avoid the area as construction company crane specialists arrived on the scene to inspect the cranes and figure out how to separate the cranes. OSHA and crane specialists were apprised of the accident and made their way to the site to begin an investigation.

An Austin media outlet published an update mid-morning of the accident, “At an 11 a.m. press conference, EMS and fire officials said the cranes were stabilized at their bases but that wires from each crane are tangled together. Officials said they are still investigating whether the tangle caused the collision or whether the cranes hit and caused the wires to tangle.

“A drone unit from the Austin Fire Department was deployed to inspect the tangle and help officials determine how best to separate them.”

Onlookers were able to provide some details, such as the injuries occurred as a result of people running to get out of the way.

The USA Tribune reported that “Cadence McShane Construction recently began construction on the Alpha Building, a six-story office building and garage in the mixed-use neighborhood. The 240-square-foot building will be the first of three development sites to provide capacity for four office buildings totaling approximately 800,000 square feet.”

“We are in close contact with our subcontractors, local authorities, and our on-site team to better understand what transpired,” Craig Morris, senior vice president for Cadence McShane, said in a statement. “More importantly, we are working with the crane subcontractor and the fire department to ensure the damaged crane is safely dismantled. Since this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot provide additional details at this time.”

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, related history of the construction company was made available. A Cadence McShane Construction employee was killed in Austin while moving a concrete slab in August 2017. Also, in February 2020, a worker at a Cadence McShane construction site in Sherman, Texas, died after falling at the new Sherman High School in North Texas, according to the Herald Democrat.

Crane operations can be dangerous work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 297 crane-related deaths from 2011 to 2017, averaging 42 deaths per year. The state with the most crane-related deaths was Texas.

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