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Fatal tower crane overturn

A tower crane overturned in the Belgian town of Nieuwport last Wednesday night, damaging a adjacent apartment and killing a 73 year old woman and seriously injuring her husband.
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The scene on Wednesday night

The crane, a relatively new Potain owned by rental company Neremat with a counterweighted base, has been working since the summer on a new apartment block in a high rise residential area. Strong winds on the night of Wednesday December 27th/28th caused the crane to lose stability and overturn from its base.
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The crane overturned at the base

The jib landed on one of the occupied apartments, with the tower landing in the street. The emergency services initially thought that there were just four people with minor injuries, but then found the couple in the rubble caused by the impact with the apartment block, which destroyed several apartments causing damage to as many as 45. A number of cars were also crushed.
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Some of the damaged apartments

The West Flanders Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation, and public prosecutor Filiep Jodts has become involved. Local reports claim that the crane caused some concern in November, when residents were evacuated for a short while. However an extra third party investigation gave the crane a clean bill of health.
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The crane in the summer

The crane was cut into sections on Friday, with all parts being moved to the army barracks in Koksijde, where an expert will conduct the investigation.
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Components were escorted to an army base for further checks as part of the investigation

The initial focus will be on whether the crane was built and erected for the relevant European wind zone, whether it was weather vaning properly, the counterweighting and quality of the foundation base, as well as checking the structure. Given that the wind factors and base were checked and verified in November it will be interesting to see the results, which are not expected to be published for several months.
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A better view of the foundation/base


Technically, the blocks placed on a cruciform base are called central ballast, not the counterweight,as opposed to those at the end of a counterjib. And as for the accident, a properly set tower crane parked with a slewing brake relased, should withstand a fairly strong winds. Or even the ones that are usually not accounted for, as the last Florida hurricane showed.

Jan 5, 2018
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