Crane operator blamed for NY incident

Operator error has been blamed as the sole cause of the fatal crawler crane overturn in Manhattan in February.

The results of the in depth investigation by the Department of Buildings, published yesterday, has confirmed what most crane specialists already knew – the luffing jib was lowered with the main boom at too low an angle, - causing the crane to lose stability in the windy conditions. The crane overturned with its boom and jib landing in the street killing David Wichs, 38. The investigation also reveals that the crane operator, Kevin Reilly, should have stowed the jib and secured the crane the night before – especially given the weather forecasts. See large crawler crane overturns in New York

As a result the City has suspended Reilly’s license and filed a case to revoke it permanently. Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “Our actions following this tragedy have made New Yorkers safer. Today’s report furthers this effort and will help shape new legislation to prevent future crane accidents. I thank everyone who worked so hard to get us to this point, including the Crane Safety Technical Working Group, our partners in the City Council, industry experts, and the Department of Buildings. The city is safer because of their work.”

The investigation also confirmed that the Liebherr crane owned by Bay Crane was in perfect working order and functioning correctly at the time. In May Wichs’ widow Rebecca, filed a $600 million lawsuit against the city, while Thomas O'Brien, 73, was looking to sue the city for $30 million for the head injuries he sustained in the incident.

Construction workers on an upper floor of the building the crane was working on captured the scene on video:


Kevin Shevchenko
Mike, further to your post, stating that he should have been under direct supervision to perform this procedure. The only way your comment has merit, is if the operator didn't know how to perform this task. In which case, you would be correct. But as seen in the video, he acted on his own accord, it is "his" obligation to request the presence of a supervisor to have it done correctly if he is not confident, comfortable or suitably trained to do so.

His supervisor may have known that he was not trained but may not have been at the job site at the time to do so. In my years as a crane and rigging supervisor I have been bit by operators performing tasks that they are not trained or experienced to do simply because they just wanted to get the job done, as I was at least an hour or more from the job site and they did not have the patience to wait for me to get there. I have shown up and by grace by luck they got away with it, and I have shown up and no luck at all.

This act is in no way a "dangerously foreseeable act" when performed in the hands of a properly trained professional, or under the direction of supervision. It is also acceptable practice to leave it in the inverted V as you called it and not lay it completely flat which would be very appropriate in the city.

"Please stop Blaming Crane Drivers and instead undertake Root Cause Analysis. " The opening statement of the article: "The results of the in depth investigation by the Department of Buildings"
I truly empathize with your desire to stop blaming the operator as its not always the case and you are 100% correct and i support your statement "Finally and in closing, please stop describing these as ‘Accidents’ as this misguided terminology perpetuates the Myth that Safety is not Manageable"

Dec 23, 2016

Kevin Shevchenko
Robert, bang on.

I agree that in this case it is operator error, there is a written procedure in the manual that instructs the operator how to lay down this type of boom jib combination. Also it is not relevant that it should have been laid down the day before when wind conditions were less severe as if it was the same operator and done the same way, it would have had the same result. Gravity wins every time.


I agree that an employer has a responsibility accountability to ensure that an operator is experienced, qualified and suitably trained to perform his/her duties. Any employer that places an operator willingly in a crane in full knowledge that the operator is not competent is 100% guilty. As a crane and rigging supervisor, i know that all too well.

There needs to be a cultural shift in the "blame game" for sure, but in this case, I don't think so, unless a court can prove beyond any doubt that the employer forced Mr Reilly in the seat to lay that boom down without knowing how, he had no business doing so until he knew with absolute certainty.

Dec 23, 2016

Robert Page
Wow Mike...you must have gone to law school. When you get a chance read B30.5 and the responsibilities of the operator...you might find it enlightening. Obviously the operator was at fault...he made a conscious decision to lower the boom instead of knuckling down the jib as you should with any luffer. If he was in fact not qualified to operate the crane and his employer put him in the seat then the employer is most definitely liable. However the operator ALWAYS has the option of stopping operations if conditions are such that safety becomes compromised.

Dec 13, 2016

FAO Mayor Bill De Blasio.
City Hall
New York City

Good Afternoon Mr Mayor,

One moment please.

Crane Operator Kevin Reilly did indeed have had his hands on the Levers when this Big Crawler Crane Tipped Over on Friday 5th February 2016, because he was acting in the course of his Employment as Crane Operator. However Mr Reilly would/should have been under Instruction and Supervision by his Employer at the material time.

Therefore as Mr Reilly is an Employee not the Employer, it is the Employer who is the Duty Holder in Law. This Common Law 'Duty of Care’ sits on the employers shoulders 24/7 and as such makes Employers responsible for Employees actions, if the act complained of was carried out in the course of employment. Especially so when undertaking such a dangerously foreseeable act such as attempting to lay down this Long Boom along Worth Street in New York City on 050216.

Moreover this Long Crane Boom on 5th Feb 2016 had Two Parts to it, the Main Boom and the Luffing Fly Jib. The Mfrs recommended Lay Down procedure for laying down such a long Boom is in Two Stages as my Learned Friend Mr T. Mayes reminded me earlier this year. The First is to put the Luffer down to street level in a large Inverted V shape similar to this ≠\. Then by means of the Mfrs supplied Wheeled Bogie fitted to the Luffing Jib top section, to lower the Long Luffer from Diagonal down to Horizontal with the main boom following. That way 100% of the forces involved are shared 50-50 between the Bogie Wheels and the Crane Tracks.

Therefore as I have spent the past 8yrs researching 340 Crane and/or Lifting Incidents Worldwide leading to 394 Fatalities since 010109. It is my submission to you as Mayor of New York that Kevin Reilly was acting in the course of his employment at the material time. As such it was his Employer who had and continues to have a Duty of Care to all non-employees like David Wichs (d) on that fateful morning. All of which explains why his Widow has now issued Civil Suit for her Husbands Violent Death, when he was Killed as a result of this Long Boom falling on him. Please stop Blaming Crane Drivers and instead undertake Root Cause Analysis.

Finally and in closing, please stop describing these as ‘Accidents’ as this misguided terminology perpetuates the Myth that Safety is not Manageable, which it self-evidently and clearly was in New York on 5th February 2016.

Worker Safety is Very Important.

Kind Regards
Mike Ponsonby

Dec 11, 2016
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