An electric crane on top of a Manhattan skyscraper experienced partial collapse after it caught fire, sending billows of black smoke up over 40 stories high, as captured on video footage. City officials confirmed that a crane was located on Tenth Avenue between West 41st and 42nd streets in Hell’s Kitchen – approximately three blocks west of Times Square – when emergency responders received reports about an engine compartment fire at around 7:28 AM.
On its way to the scene, however, fire officials say the crane’s arm suddenly disintegrated while transporting supplies, and videos show that its outer part struck an adjacent building, sending debris tumbling. Subsequently, its arm collided with an adjacent tower before collapsing onto the scaffolding and the street below, prompting people to flee in panic.
Joseph Pfeifer of FDNY reported that a crane’s top part, known as its boom, and 16 tons of concrete collapsed at once. As they attempted to lift these loads separately from one another, an explosion occurred, prompting an operator to notice a fire starting when lifting 16 tons. When extinguishing flames became overwhelming, he left without injuries sustained by himself or any workers nearby. Luckily there were no serious injuries reported as a result.
Pfeifer explained that the 16-ton weight was suspended by a cable that became damaged from heat damage caused by fire, eventually leading to its dislodgement and collapse. As a result of this incident, 11 individuals were injured, including two firefighters and workers outside of the building at that time. Two civilians and a firefighter suffered serious but expected recoverable injuries, while others received only minor ones.
Firefighters used water from above and below and from an adjacent building’s hose to extinguish the blaze, with drone footage showing that nearly all fire was extinguished by 9 AM. However, part of a crane’s cab remained scorched about 45 stories above ground level.
Mayor Eric Adams applauded the crane operator’s quick thinking, suggesting his actions may have saved lives in an otherwise precarious situation at such a busy time. He highlighted how easily it could have gone much worse had more complications involved. Officials were uncertain whether anyone was present inside during the crane fire and collapse or whether any damage to its structure occurred as a result.
Inspectors and engineers from the city examined the crane and the building it sat atop, verifying they remained structurally sound. An initial investigation by the Department of Buildings (DOB) discovered no structural damage to any buildings involved, including neighboring towers hit by its arm; however, certain areas with hanging debris considered potentially risky were targeted for removal to further secure the site.
The Department of Building (DOB) has visited three times since June to conduct inspections at various project stages and found that the general contractor and crane company held all relevant permits.
New York Crane & Equipment Corp, one of New York City’s more frequently utilized crane providers, owned the crane involved. However, previous issues surrounding it led to criminal charges against its operators and enhanced safety regulations regarding crane operations in NYC; unfortunately, it declined to comment about this recent incident.
In 2008, an Upper East Side tower crane collapsed, killing two workers from this company and their owner; although both parties were cleared of manslaughter charges against them, one mechanic, however, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide charges for criminally negligent homicide charges brought forth from this accident and another incident the previous year resulting in the resignation of buildings commissioner and implementation of additional safety measures for crane operations.
Over 200 firefighters and emergency medical services personnel responded, closing off traffic access while evacuating nearby buildings. Fire investigators were still conducting an inquiry, and cleanup was in progress. The importance of robust security services in construction sites and high-rise buildings becomes evident to prevent accidents and effectively handle emergencies.