Two Dead, Five Injured in Miami Crane Collapse

Two construction workers were killed and five others were injured Tuesday when a crane section dropped at a downtown high-rise condominium site and fell on top of a home that a contractor used for storage, police said.

Another worker was initially reported missing by co-workers but was later identified as one of the injured, according to Miami fire spokesman Ignatius Carroll.

A canine team that surveyed the site of the more than 40-story Biscayne Bay luxury condo tower found no evidence of any trapped people. Still, rescue workers were attempting to secure a severely damaged wall before re-entering the house to make sure no one was stuck inside.

One survivor was in critical condition, while the other four did not have life-threatening injuries, officials said. One of those killed died inside the house, the other at the hospital, Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss said.

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The crane's main vertical section was intact, but the part that fell was a 20-foot section that workers were raising to extend the equipment's reach, Carroll said. It plummeted 30 floors and smashed through the home's Spanish-tiled roof.

Florida does not regulate or license tower cranes and crane operators, but bills moving through the Legislature would change that.

Moss said the damaged two-story house was the home of Cameron Diaz's character in the movie "There's Something About Mary."

David Martinez, 31, a Miami pipe-fitter, was on the fourth floor of the condo building eating lunch when the crash occurred.

"It was like a small earthquake," he said. "We looked outside, and we couldn't even see." Martinez said it took several minutes for the dust to clear so he could see what had happened.

Mary Costello, a senior vice president for Bovis Lend Lease Holdings Inc., which was managing the construction, said the accident occurred when a subcontractor was trying to raise the crane section and it came loose. She said the company was cooperating fully with investigators.

"Our hearts are heavy at this moment for the two deceased individuals, including one of our own employees and the additional injured workers," she said in a statement.

The subcontractor, Morrow Equipment Co., and the tower developer, Royal Palms Communities, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had two investigators at the site. Darlene Fossum, an area director for the agency, said Bovis Lend Lease had partnered with OSHA in the past and was considered a company that went "above and beyond" in terms of safety and health.

"We have worked closely with them on their safety programs and feel very confident that this was one of the premiere contractors on this job site," she said.

Fossum added that OSHA did issue five violations against Morrow in a December 1999 incident in Florida, but those mostly involved problems with digging and not cranes. The Salem, Ore-based company has faced 15 inspections nationwide.

The accident came 10 days after a 20-story crane collapsed at a New York construction site, killing seven people. Since then, New York City officials have told contractors that they can't raise or lower large cranes at construction sites unless a buildings inspector is there.

In 2006, a fatal crane accident in Miami-Dade County prompted local officials to work with industry leaders on an ordinance that would beef up inspections and safety measures for lifting cranes.

The ordinance was to go into effect Friday.

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