One of the most legendary (and well-analyzed) crane collapses, Big Blue was a Lampson LTL-1500 Transi-Lift heavy lift crawler crane. It collapsed in 1999, during construction of the Miller Park baseball stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, killing three iron workers: Jeffrey Wischer, William DeGrave, and Jerome Starr.
The crane was lifting a 100 x 180 x 16 open truss panel roof section, weighing in at around 500 tons. The workers were killed after falling 300 feet to the ground, when the crane hit the observation platform on which they were standing. The accident also caused about $100 million in damage, delayed the project's completion for a year, and was a landmark trial relating to crane operation and worker safety. Much of the blame was placed on the supervisor, Victor Grotlisch, who was portrayed as both sloppy and authoritarian, and who may even have unplugged the site's weather computer in an effort to eliminate a record of the wind speed at the time of the accident.
Lampson was found to be 3% negligent, mostly due to failure to provide clear crane operation instructions. Mitsubishi was found to be 97% negligent, because of its failure to monitor wind speed during the roof panel lift. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's office had originally placed the blame on structural failure, but the jury rejected their position.
It just so happened that a safety inspector was filming the crane as it collapsed. In fact, OSHA inspectors were investigating the site because of fall hazards.
The widows of the workers settled a lawsuit against the company handling the roof construction project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for $57 million.
What happened? The same old story from numerous catastrophes: weather event + sloppiness. In this case, winds were gusting over 30 MPH, and management failed to heed the warnings of multiple workers who voiced their concerns about working in high wind. The crane boom was only rated to 20 mph. In addition, the crane had sank about a foot into the soil after initially lifting the roof section. At the trial, experts estimated the maximum safe wind speed for this lift to be 11 mph.
After the accident, various changes were implemented:
-A new crane with multiple anemometers and computerized load monitoring was installed.
-Mats were placed under the crane.
-Wind loads were more carefully calculated for all lifts.
A three-figured bronze statue was erected in honor of the three ironworkers who died in the accident.
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