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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: 255125

Reported Deaths: 5574
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17197175
Hinds16280322
Harrison13502193
Rankin10749211
Jackson10407183
Lee8819141
Madison8262162
Jones6375110
Forrest5992119
Lauderdale5873180
Lowndes5381116
Lafayette496692
Lamar487565
Washington4800123
Bolivar3978108
Oktibbeha393880
Panola370779
Pontotoc365353
Monroe3543105
Warren353498
Union344760
Marshall342665
Neshoba3383152
Pearl River329799
Leflore3004105
Lincoln297685
Sunflower284969
Hancock273459
Tate272462
Alcorn264053
Pike263577
Itawamba262959
Scott246645
Yazoo245955
Prentiss245652
Copiah241949
Tippah241750
Simpson235767
Coahoma233754
Leake231164
Grenada218470
Covington213071
Marion212072
Adams205870
Wayne201331
Winston200564
George199338
Attala193759
Newton192842
Tishomingo186359
Chickasaw183944
Jasper170835
Holmes168767
Clay159433
Stone143621
Tallahatchie141034
Clarke138960
Calhoun136121
Smith120823
Yalobusha117034
Walthall112336
Noxubee110522
Greene110229
Montgomery109634
Carroll104521
Lawrence102617
Perry102231
Amite98025
Webster92424
Tunica86721
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis84825
Humphreys83024
Benton81823
Kemper77220
Quitman6918
Franklin66615
Choctaw60513
Wilkinson58425
Jefferson54319
Sharkey43017
Issaquena1596
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 424028

Reported Deaths: 6121
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62258921
Mobile30381549
Madison27160186
Tuscaloosa20779267
Montgomery19049305
Shelby18572114
Baldwin16346182
Lee12515101
Morgan12260113
Etowah11757168
Calhoun11161200
Marshall10199107
Houston8630148
Cullman8036105
Limestone802874
Elmore7849101
DeKalb768897
Lauderdale760083
St. Clair7555120
Talladega6180108
Walker5903174
Jackson581341
Colbert533573
Blount530883
Autauga519855
Coffee443956
Dale398581
Franklin367548
Chilton337665
Russell331710
Covington327768
Escambia319342
Dallas303396
Chambers284269
Clarke282133
Tallapoosa2617107
Pike249429
Marion246250
Lawrence244247
Winston227335
Bibb216247
Geneva202535
Marengo199729
Pickens197031
Hale176442
Barbour173036
Butler170258
Fayette169026
Cherokee160530
Henry154421
Monroe145617
Randolph140735
Washington137726
Clay126745
Crenshaw119544
Lamar118219
Cleburne117723
Macon115035
Lowndes110735
Wilcox103121
Bullock99128
Perry97719
Conecuh94420
Sumter89126
Greene76123
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
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