4 die after construction crane crushes cars

SEATTLE — Four people died and three were injured when a construction crane on the new Google Seattle campus collapsed Saturday, pinning six cars underneath.

One female and three males were dead by the time firefighters got to the scene, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said. Two of the dead were ironworkers, not crane operators, as had been previously stated, and the two others were people who had been in cars, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Saturday night.

A 25-year-old mother and her 4-month-old daughter were in a car that was smashed by the crane, but both managed to escape with only minor injuries, Durkan said. They and a 28-year-old man were taken to Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Fire spokesman Lance Garland said. A fourth person also was injured and treated at the scene.

Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Saturday night that the mother and baby had been discharged, while the man injured was in satisfactory condition.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office said it would not release names of people who died until Monday.

“It’s a horrible day in Seattle when something like this happens. But it’s a time when we come together because Seattle is a city that rallies around each other,” Durkan said.

The crane collapsed near the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue near Interstate 5 shortly before 3:30 p.m., Scoggins said.

With Amazon and other tech companies increasing their hiring in Seattle, the city has dozens of construction cranes building office towers and apartment buildings. As of January, there were about 60 construction cranes in Seattle, more than any other American city.

Officials do not yet know the cause of the collapse. Police and the state Department of Labor and Industries were investigating the incident, which Durkan said could take months.

Daren Konopaski, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which represents heavy-equipment operators, told The Seattle Times he understood the crane was being dismantled when heavy winds moved through the area.

“We don’t know, but that’s what seems to have happened here,” he said. “We are in the process of trying to get information.”

Durkan confirmed that people were actively working on top of the building Saturday, but she didn’t say whether the crane was being dismantled.

A line of showers moved over Seattle just about the time the crane fell, the National Weather Service in Seattle said. An observation station on nearby Lake Union showed winds kicked up with gusts of up to 23 mph at 3:28 p.m., just about the time officials said the crane fell.

“It was terrifying,” witness Esther Nelson, a biotech researcher who was working in a building nearby, told the newspaper.

“The wind was blowing really strong,” she said, and added that the crane appeared to break in half. “Half of it was flying down sideways on the building,” she said. “The other half fell down on the street, crossing both lanes of traffic.”

The office building the crane fell from was badly damaged, with several of its windows smashed.