Families In Mourning After NYC Crane Collapse
Construction Worker, Crane Operator Die In Upper East Side Tragedy
NEW YORK (CBS) ―
the crane broke apart and half came tumbling down, Donald Leo, who was inside
the cab, fell to his death. The 30-year-old from Staten Island was just a few
weeks away from marrying the love of his life when the accident occurred Friday
His family and friends asked for privacy as they grieved at
Leo's parents' Staten Island home. Labor priest Father Brian Jordan knew him
"This young man was full of promise and full of talent. May God's
blessing be upon his family and his local union," Jordan said.
street below the crane was 28-year-old Ramadan Kurtaj from the Bronx, the second
victim of the accident. He was an employee of Metropolitan Water and Sewer.
Falling debris from the collapse struck and trapped him. He was confirmed dead
shortly before 3 p.m. Friday.
"We tried getting him out but he was
pinned so we just tried to comfort him the best we could. We gave him water,
told him to stay awake," he said.
Alvarez said about seven minutes
later, rescue workers showed up.
"They were able to get him out by using
hydrolics, but he was in pretty bad shape," he said. "[He made] a lot of eye
contact. He was saying, 'I don't want to die.'"
Kurtaj, a native of
Kosovo, was living with his uncle and cousins in the Bronx - all construction
"Just horrible, I feel so sick, I feel so bad," said his
uncle, Beke Nikqi.
As families of the victims mourn the loss of their
loved ones, residents of the Electra building are counting their blessings and
recounting the moment the crane crashed into their building.
"We woke up
at 8:06 to an explosion. We knew the crane was coming in to the living room and
it did," said resident Leonard Lorussa.
"Your adrenaline is rushing and
you're just running for safety," Lauren Dunn recalled.
were evacuated -- 160 apartments in total -- as a precautionary measure.
The crane came tumbling down during the morning rush, sometime around 8
a.m., from the top of the Azure New York, a 34-story cooperative under
construction. As the crane snapped, it struck the top of the 23-story building
on the southwest corner of the intersection and then slid down its facade,
ripping apart balconies and tearing through the walls of apartments.
Officials admitted that a stop-work order had been placed on the
construction site on May 7 due to hazardous conditions observed at the work
site, but it was partially rescinded a day later.
Just days before the
tragic collapse, the rest of the order was lifted.
At least 25
complaints about the building's construction had been filed in the past. You can
view the list of complaints by clicking here.
President Scott Stringer was stunned that another collapse could happen again,
and so soon. "This is totally mind blowing," he said. "It looks like a bomb
exploded in Manhattan. It's just a total tragedy.
"This is such a
travesty of epic proportion, this is now creating a sense of urgency that
perhaps we have never seen before," he added. "Let's admit that we have a crisis
and we're not doing well managing the crisis."
A construction worker,
Simeon Alexis, was taken to a hospital with his "chest slashed open," his
foreman, Scott Bair, told the Associated Press.
An emotional Bair told
the AP his own life was saved because he left to get an egg sandwich a block
away just before the collapse.
"I thought, I'm hungry, and I want to go
get something to eat -- and that saved my life," he said.
firefighters and officials from the Office of Emergency Management immediately
responded to the scene and worked frantically to search for other victims.
During a news conference at the site, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said an
investigation into the incident was underway.
"What has happened is
unacceptable and intolerable. Having said that, we do not know why this
happened. Whether or not we could have prevented this, we do not know," he said.
Phillip Schiffman, an airline pilot who lives on the eighth floor of the
building that was struck, told CBS 2 he heard a loud noise followed by silence.
"Right away I knew," he said. "I heard this noise and I just said to
myself, 'Oh my God,' I thought I was going to die. "I went out onto my balcony
and just saw a horrific sight. Like out of a movie. It's like nothing I have
ever seen before."
Schiffman said he called the city's buildings
department multiple times recently to check on the the crane's safety and
stability because he thought it looked "precarious."
CBS 2's Sean
Hennessey was at the scene of the collapse and described the feeling among
"We're in the midst of a crowd of people, people wondering
how this happened again, and it has happened again with horrible consequences,"
Hennessey said a construction worker described hearing "four
pops" and seeing bolts snap on the crane after hearing the sound.
Another woman told Hennessey that she said she'd noticed the crane had
been shaking in recent days.
City Councilman Tony Avella, who works on
the city's Buildings Committee, had harsh words for Bloomberg, telling CBS 2,
"The mayor has to share a lot of the blame.
"Construction of buildings
is out of control in this city," he said. "How many people have to die before
the mayor decides enough is enough? ... Every crane operation in the city needs
to be shut down in the city at this point until it's fully inspected."
The collapse is the second in nearly three months, the first occurring
on March 15 on Manhattan's east side, killing seven people. Since then, the
city's Buildings Department faced scrutiny for its inspections of construction
A city inspector was arrested for falsifying records prior to the
March collapse, and the buildings commissioner resigned a short time after.
The building under construction in Friday's collapse was a residential
high-rise with several commercial units and a middle school attached.
Area residents say they weren't surprised by the collapse, fearing the
crane was not well-supported on the building.
"It wasn't a matter of
'if', it was a matter of 'when,'" said one male witness. "That was the sense
that you got. People would just stare up at the crane like 'that doesn't look
right'. I'm not an engineer, but it just looked rickety."
Brisbano, a resident of the building that was struck, told CBS 2 her apartment
was destroyed, with one of the walls in her unit completely slashed and brought
down. She said the screams of the construction workers will ring through her
"There is glass everywhere. There are no walls. It looks
like an earthquake hit," she said. "I'm thinking I'm going to die. I'm thinking
it's a bomb, it's a crane. I've been waiting for this day and it actually