Agency fines company $26K for fatal Dallas crane collapse

DALLAS (AP) — A federal agency imposed a $26,000 fine against the owner of a crane that slashed through an apartment building near downtown Dallas, killing one resident and displacing hundreds.

The citation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t explain the cause of the collapse. Another nearby crane wasn’t affected by the June wind storm that the company blames for the damage.

Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. owns the crane that high winds toppled on the five-story Elan City Lights apartment building on June 9, killing a 29-year-old woman and injuring five people. At the time, wind gusts up to 71 mph (114 kph) shattered windows of high-rise buildings and tore trees apart, particularly in Dallas and its northern suburbs.

The company will appeal OSHA’s citations, said Randy Smith, the corporate counsel for Bigge. Smith noted that the agency didn’t determine the cause of the collapse, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

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“I think really the only way (the cause is) ever going to get sorted out is probably through the lawsuits,” Smith said.

Bigge has 15 business days after its notification of the fine to respond, an OSHA spokesman said. The crane company can agree to pay the penalties, meet with OSHA officials to reach an alternative agreement or formally contest the citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which is independent of OSHA.

OSHA is an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor that investigates workplace safety and enforces standards.

The spokesman declined the newspaper’s request for further comment regarding the agency’s citation.

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The citation dated Dec. 6 says that as of June 8, the day before the crane collapsed, Bigge failed to complete inspection of the crane.

Specifically, the citation explains that the company didn’t follow the appropriate instructions to remove rusty bolts and address the decay of structural tower members. Bigge also failed to inspect the crane for loose bolts and turntable and tower bolts for proper condition and torque on an annual basis, the citation says.

Thomas Barth, who is a former crane operator and inspector and now works as an expert witness in court cases involving crane safety, said OSHA’s citations don’t conclude why the crane collapsed.

“OSHA is just citing them for rust on the crane and things like that,” Barth said, noting that many cranes could be cited for exterior rust. “But the surface rust had nothing to do with this crane falling down.”

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Dozens of former residents are suing the crane company and apartment owners over the collapse.

Jason Friedman, one of the attorneys representing several former residents in the lawsuit, said he expected OSHA to release an explanation for the collapse.

“There are people who are injured, there’s a woman who died, and there’s no explanation for anything,” Friedman said.