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Seattle construction crane collapse: What we know

What happened, and what comes next?

South Lake Union.
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Editor’s note: This is a developing story. This article was first published on April 29 at 5 a.m., but we expect to have updates throughout the week.

On Saturday, a crane toppled over in South Lake Union in Seattle—one of the most crane-dense neighborhoods in the most crane-heavy city in the country—onto Mercer Street, one of the city’s busiest streets, just before Interstate 5. Four people were killed in the incident.

While news has been coming out about the tragedy all weekend, there’s still a lot of information emerging. Here’s a compilation of what we know so far.

What happened?

Just after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, a tower crane—the giant construction cranes that have become ubiquitous in Seattle—collapsed, hurtling segments into the building below and onto busy Mercer Street just west of Fairview, striking six cars.

Why did the crane collapse?

The short answer: It’s still unclear. But preliminarily, there are a few factors that could have contributed.

At the time of its collapse, a spokesperson for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (IUOE 302) told the Seattle Times, it was in the process of being dismantled. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) later detailed this process in a later Seattle Times piece: a smaller crane was taking apart a bigger crane.

Meanwhile, some chaotic weather was coming through, with a 23-mile-per-hour wind gust clocked by the National Weather Service just before the collapse.

L&I (which just held a ceremony last week honoring workers who lost their lives on the job) is launching an investigation into the incident, the Seattle Times reported Sunday. Specifically, L&I is looking at general contractor GLY Construction, crane disassembler Northwest Tower Crane Service, smaller-crane operator Omega Morgan, and crane owner Morrow Equipment.

An L&I spokesperson told the Associated Press that the investigation will take “months.”

What building was the crane working on?

The crane was building Google’s massive new campus, which is being developed by Vulcan. It’s was announced in 2016 and has been under construction for nearly two years, scheduled to open this summer. It’s a two-block project (with a third coming) that’s mostly office space with some apartments.

How many people were injured?

Four people were injured, according to the Seattle Times: a 20-year-old man in town for cancer treatment, a 25-year-old woman and her 4-month-old daughter, and a man in his late 20s. Most injuries were minor, although as of Sunday night, according to the Times, one person is still at Harborview Medical Center in satisfactory condition.

Who was killed?

Four people were killed. Two of the dead were ironworkers, the Washington State Construction and Building Trades Council confirmed via Facebook on Saturday—one from Seattle’s Ironworkers Local 86 and the other with Portland’s Local 29. Their identities were revealed Monday, the Seattle Times reported: Andrew Yoder, a 31-year-old North Bend man, and Travis Corbet, who was 33.

Sarah Wong, a 19-year-old student at Seattle Pacific University, was killed when the crane struck her car—the Seattle Times spoke with people close to her.

The fourth victim was Alan Justad, former deputy director of what was then called the Seattle Department of Planning and Development. Justad, 71, retired in 2014.

“Alan was respected for his commitment to service, his warmth, and his relentless belief in doing good for Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in a statement on Justad’s death “So many in Seattle are grieving today as they absorb this terrible news.”

Are streets still closed?

As of Monday morning, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced in a blog post, all roads around the incident have reopened, including the I-5 offramp.