Cranes are supposed to withstand 140 mph winds. So what caused the deadly Dallas crane collapse?

A crane collapsed onto an apartment complex Sunday after severe weather hit the Dallas area. At least one person was killed.

Posted: Jun 11, 2019 10:10 AM
Updated: Jun 11, 2019 10:10 AM

The crane collapsed with such force, it crushed a Dallas apartment building like it was a cardboard box.

One woman, 29-year-old Kiersten Smith, was killed. Others have lost their homes.

But the tragic accident during a storm Sunday didn't have to happen, a crane safety expert said.

"The reason I say that is there was nobody on the job," said Thomas Barth, a former federal crane accident investigator.

"It happened on a weekend. Why didn't anybody check the weather for the weekend, knowing that this storm was coming in? Why didn't they prepare the crane?"

'This crane should not have gone over backwards'

About three hours before the crane collapsed, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the Dallas area.

Sunday's highest reported wind gust at Dallas Love Field Airport was 71 mph, although wind speeds were likely higher aloft.

But cranes should be able to handle winds almost twice as strong, Barth said.

"High winds blew it over backwards, and these cranes are able to withstand winds up to 140 mph," he said.

"Was it installed properly? These are things (that) will come out later in the investigation of why it happened. This crane should not have gone over backwards."

The crane company, Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., said it is also seeking answers and is cooperating with investigators.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured, and to those that suffered property damage," the company said. "We are mobilizing personnel to the site to find out more and, of course, to fully cooperate with investigating authorities.

Two of five people injured in the collapse have been released from the hospital, Dallas Fire-Rescue said.

What could have been done

Barth said crane companies can prevent catastrophes during a storm without having to dismantle the entire crane.

"One of the things I would suggest -- and a lot of people do it -- is they tie a heavy weight on the crane (so) the boom can't go over backwards or anything like that," he said.

So why doesn't that always happen? In his experience investigating previous accidents, Barth said it often comes down to money or inexperience.

"The industry has grown so fast for cranes, a lot of people are doing things that are pushed into these positions without the proper training," he said.

Sunday's tragedy marked the ninth crane accident death in North Texas since 2012, CNN affiliate KTVT reported. From 2011 to 2015, Texas had about four times more crane-related deaths than any other state.

But recent fatal crane accidents have happened across the country.

In April, workers were trying to dismantle a crane in Seattle when the mast collapsed, killing two workers and two bystanders. In 2016, a 565-foot crane collapsed during morning rush hour in New York City, killing one person.

'It just sliced through the building'

Abbey Kearney, who lives in the Dallas apartment complex, said the disaster happened quickly.

"It was like a sunny, beautiful day and people were at the pool," she said. "And then it just got dark very quickly, and the wind picked up something fierce. It got dark, and it was over in a matter of seconds."

She saw three umbrellas shoot straight up into the air. All the pool furniture flew into the pool.

Then she saw the crane plummet.

"It just sliced through the building ... like a hot knife through butter," Kearney said. "It went from the fifth floor to, from what I can tell, the third floor."

Concrete floors of the parking garage ripped like paper. Rows of vehicles fell several stories below and lay heaped in a mangled mess.

"There were cars that were vertical," Kearney said.

As investigators work the scene Monday, some residents still have no idea whether their apartments are still intact.

"We don't know how much -- if any -- damage was done to our apartment," said Sammy Sandquist, who lives with her fiancé. "We have no idea how much damage was done to one of our vehicles. It's in there. It was on the top floor ... We don't know if it's at the bottom of the pile."

Officials said residents will be allowed to go into their apartments to retrieve belongings.

Sandquist said she's frustrated knowing there may have been ways to avert the tragedy.

"It just really breaks your heart," she said. "You want to just wish you could go back in time and make sure that none of this ever happened in the first place."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 471092

Reported Deaths: 9165
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32160471
Hinds30628574
DeSoto29693344
Jackson23098335
Rankin21062357
Lee14515218
Madison13993264
Jones13112218
Forrest12926231
Lauderdale11301294
Lowndes10206171
Lamar10017125
Pearl River8616208
Lafayette8052136
Hancock7172111
Washington6816146
Oktibbeha6799117
Neshoba6377201
Monroe6343158
Warren6310159
Pontotoc607692
Panola6056123
Bolivar5991143
Marshall5948116
Union562385
Pike5450133
Lincoln5217129
Alcorn516288
George456466
Scott450392
Leflore4392140
Prentiss435275
Itawamba433295
Tippah432480
Simpson4251110
Copiah424784
Wayne422363
Tate4202100
Adams4184110
Yazoo412486
Sunflower4077104
Covington406591
Marion4016100
Leake390485
Coahoma387098
Newton361674
Grenada3511100
Stone343757
Tishomingo323788
Attala319685
Jasper309562
Winston299191
Clay286172
Chickasaw280564
Clarke275587
Calhoun258539
Holmes258585
Smith242246
Yalobusha216447
Tallahatchie214949
Walthall204657
Lawrence203231
Greene202645
Perry195753
Webster191642
Amite191451
Noxubee174438
Montgomery169453
Jefferson Davis164341
Carroll159437
Tunica147634
Benton138232
Kemper136939
Claiborne125534
Choctaw124424
Humphreys123037
Franklin114327
Quitman101425
Wilkinson98435
Jefferson86332
Sharkey61720
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 761865

Reported Deaths: 12856
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1087131712
Mobile696141168
Madison47959565
Baldwin35517431
Shelby34948283
Tuscaloosa32719498
Montgomery32358648
Lee21708200
Calhoun19823367
Morgan19140308
Etowah18450414
Marshall17138255
Houston15970340
St. Clair14803270
Limestone13986179
Elmore13893240
Cullman13892229
Lauderdale12986264
Talladega12235203
DeKalb11788220
Walker10110304
Autauga9416120
Blount9329149
Jackson9026132
Coffee8598153
Colbert8257160
Dale8204143
Escambia639399
Tallapoosa6315165
Covington6265153
Chilton6188128
Russell588353
Franklin560093
Chambers5182127
Dallas4595174
Marion4540114
Clarke447871
Pike441488
Geneva419499
Winston402682
Lawrence4018101
Bibb392976
Barbour335567
Marengo318878
Monroe308244
Butler307679
Pickens297366
Henry290752
Randolph290055
Hale284081
Cherokee277249
Fayette269769
Washington242244
Crenshaw229463
Clay220261
Macon212554
Cleburne207346
Lamar185538
Conecuh175237
Lowndes168156
Coosa161531
Wilcox153533
Bullock146242
Perry133132
Sumter122735
Greene118241
Choctaw71925
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