Pedestrians, workers run as NYC construction crane catches fire, crashes 45 stories to sidewalk

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New York Construction Report staff writer

A construction crane caught fire 45 stories above the West Side of Manhattan Wednesday morning, causing its arm to break off, smash against a building and crash to the street as people ran for their lives on the sidewalk below.

Four pedestrians and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

“As you can see from the debris on the street, this could have been much worse,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference, noting that the street at that hour of the morning is often filled with pedestrians, cars and buses.

The fire broke out shortly before 7:30 a.m. at a building under construction on 10th Avenue between West 41st and 42nd streets in Hell’s Kitchen. The crane was carrying 45 tons of concrete at the time.

Officials say permits and inspections for the construction project were up to date.

“At 7:25 this morning we got a report of a fire in the engine compartment of the crane, and we’re talking about the engine compartment above the roof line, about 45 stories up. As our fire units responded to the scene, we had a collapse,” First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The top part of the crane, the boom and a 16 ton load crashed to the ground.

“As the fire heats the cable, the cable weakens to a point where it loses its strength, and that’s where the collapse occurred,” he explained.

The crane operator tried to put out the fire as it spread but had to flee to safety, Pfeifer said.

“That crane operator saw that the fire started and tried to extinguish it, so we give a lot of credit to the operator, but the fire overwhelmed him and he had to exit the crane.”

Civilians were treated for minor injuries and two firefighters experienced heat exhaustion and chest pains.

“What we should know about this is that we worked together to evacuate the buildings. Firefighters were in the surrounding buildings, evacuated the buildings and also stretched hose lines to the top floors,” Pfeifer said, adding that more than 200 firefighters and EMS personnel were at the scene.

The cause of the fire is being investigated. Authorities said they also planned to investigate the structural integrity of the residential tower, which is under construction and expected to rise to 54 stories.

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