Crane arm catches fire, collapses onto street in Hell’s Kitchen
NEW YORK — A crane went up in flames Wednesday morning high above Manhattan, then partially collapsed onto the street below.
The fire broke out shortly before 7:30 a.m. 45 stories up in the air at a building that was under construction on 10th Avenue between West 41st and 42nd streets in Hell’s Kitchen.
A high-ranking city official tells CBS New York that the preliminary cause of the fire is hydraulic fluid that leaked onto a hot plate near the engine of the crane. At this point, the incident appears accidental and there is no suspected criminality.
The Department of Buildings, who is the lead agency, has its engineers working to officially determine the cause.
Officials say permits and inspections were all up to date.
Watch: Video shows moment crane came crashing down
Social media video captured the dramatic scene when the crane’s boom came down, smashing into a building across the street.
Twelve people were hurt, including three firefighters. All of the injuries were described as non-life-threatening.
The DOB said Wednesday afternoon that, following a preliminary inspection, the crane, building under construction and neighboring building that was struck are all structurally stable and not in danger of collapse.
The FDNY said the five-alarm fire started in the engine compartment as workers were lifting a load of concrete to the 36th floor. The crane operator tried to put it out with hand extinguishers, but it became too overwhelming, and he had to exit the crane.
The FDNY got the call around 7:25 a.m. and as firefighters responded, the partial collapse happened, and the building strike.
Watch: Mayor Adams, FDNY and DOB update
Mayor Eric Adams provided an update on the scene, along with the FDNY and Department of Buildings, saying the situation could have been a lot worse, especially considering the high-traffic area.
“We are extremely fortunate that we were not during the busy time of day,” Adams said. “As you know, Port Authority is here, many of the buses move through here.”
Watch: Extended coverage of Chopper 2 overhead
First Deputy Commissioner Joseph W. Pfeifer said the crane was lifting 16 tons of concrete when the fire started.
- Photo Gallery: Crane goes up in flames, partially collapses over NYC
“There’s a beam that goes out, and that’s carrying the weight of concrete. And that weight of 16 tons is attached by a cable. As the fire heats the cable, the cable weakens to a point where it loses its strength, and that’s when the collapse occurred,” he explained.
Watch: Expert on fighting rooftop construction fire
Pfeifer credited the crane operator for spotting the fire and trying to put it out.
“That crane operator saw that the fire started and tried to extinguish it. So we give a lot of credit to the crane operator. But the fire overwhelmed that operator and had to exit the crane,” he said. “The crane operator was able to get out and is safe.”
Watch Alice Gainer’s report
As they closed off the streets, firefighters had the difficult task of fighting the fire high above.
“The difficulty when you have a fire so high up is to be able to supply water to the building and stretch hose lines from inside the building and across the street,” Pfeifer said.
The site of the fire, 550 10th Ave., is currently under construction. It’s a mixed-use residential building around 47 stories high.
“We will look at the structural integrity of the building that was hit, the structural integrity of the building worked on,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner James Oddo.
The DOB says they have issued a stop work order at the tower project.
More than 200 fire and EMS personnel assisted.
The fire went to five alarms as they searched and evacuated nearby buildings, including Covenant House, a shelter for youth experiencing homelessness.
“I can’t even wrap my mind around it. We’re still trying to wrap our minds around it. We’re looking for placement for 119 youth who are receiving services at our crisis shelter at this time,” said Dr. Shakeema North, interim executive director of Covenant House New York.
North and her team spent the day frantically searching for temporary shelters to move them to. She says the community rallied together to make sure all the kids have food and a bed until they can return to the building.
“I say that was nothing short of amazing,” North said.
Drivers are urged to avoid the area. The NYPD says 10th Avenue is likely going to be closed most of the day Thursday.
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I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.