HOUSTON – One of the nation’s largest mobile cranes collapsed at a Houston oil refinery Friday, killing four workers and injuring seven others in the latest of several fatal accidents that have raised concerns about the safety of construction cranes.
The 30-story-tall crane, capable of lifting 1 million pounds, fell over at a LyondellBasell refinery in southeast Houston about 2 p.m., said Jim Roecker, the company’s vice president for refining.
The massive, deep red crane lay on top of a smaller, bright yellow crane on the grounds of the refinery. Ambulances and fire trucks were lined up outside.
The casualties were in the area of the crane, but officials still aren’t certain whether they were on the crane or under it, Roecker said.
The crane belonged to Deep South Crane & Rigging. Roecker described it as one of the nation’s largest mobile cranes, at 300 feet tall with a 400-foot boom. Construction cranes run taller, but they are not mobile.
The crane had not been scheduled to do any work until next week, but Roecker said its engine was idling after it hit the ground.
Crane safety has been getting extra scrutiny in recent months because of an alarming number of crane-related deaths in places such as New York, Miami and Las Vegas.
In New York City, two crane accidents since March have killed nine people – a greater number than the total deaths from cranes over the previous decade.
Texas led the nation with 26 crane-related fatalities in 2005 and 2006, according to federal statistics. Cranes in Texas operate without any state or local oversight, leaving that job to federal regulators.
The crane at the refinery had been delivered in pieces and assembled on site within the last month.