16 people hospitalized after 2 cranes collide at east Austin construction site

National News

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several people suffered injuries after two cranes collided Wednesday morning at an east Austin construction site.

Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS crews reported to the site, which is located at 1600 Robert Browning Street, ATCEMS reports. The site is set to be the location for the construction of the Mueller Parking Garage and office project, according to a site development plan.

Sixteen people total were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. Three patients refused treatment, and three are being considered “no patients,” which are people who were involved in the incident but not hurt.

St. David’s HealthCare confirmed it was treating six people at its hospitals.

“A total of six patients were transported to St. David’s HealthCare hospitals after two cranes collided at a construction site in the Mueller area late this morning,” a statement from St. David’s Hospital read. “Of those six patients, three were taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, and three were taken to St. David’s Medical Center in Central Austin.”

Additionally, ATCEMS confirmed three patients went to Ascension Seton Main, three went to Ascension Seton Northwest and four went to Dell Seton Medical Center.

ATCEMS reported that all injuries incurred happened as people attempted to get out of the incident after the cranes collided. The incident was previously reported as a “collapse.” However, authorities reported that it was “crane-on-crane” with no collapse.

Everyone who was taken to a hospital worked at the construction site, which is being developed by a company called Catellus.

Mark Bridges with AFD said the cranes were in a holding pattern until the company they belong to responded. Meanwhile, one crane operator, who is not in any danger, remained on the crane, with his foot on a brake to prevent the cranes from collapsing. However, AFD said this is unlikely.

“We are just holding this scene and preventing anyone from going back in,” Bridges said Wednesday morning.

By 6 p.m. Wednesday, the operator was able to evacuate the crane by climbing down to safety.

The site development plan, which was submitted in December 2018, showed the creation of an eight-level garage for a nearby office building and the Mueller Planned Unit Development. Two of the garage’s levels are below ground, and the ground level will include retail space.

The construction company, Cadence McShane Construction, released a statement to KXAN, saying its number one concern is the health and safety of its employees.

“Today in east Austin there was an incident involving two cranes. Thankfully, there have been no life-threatening injuries, but we are investigating the incident with the Authorities Having Jurisdiction. We are in close contact with our subcontractors, local authorities, and our on-site team to better understand what transpired. More importantly, we are working with the crane subcontractor and the fire department to ensure the damaged crane is safely dismantled. Since this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot provide additional details at this time,” the statement read.

Michael A. King, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 520, issued a statement on behalf of the union saying, in part, “the reduction of funding of OSHA has crippled the agencies’ ability to monitor these sites for safety violations.”

The staff and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 520 would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the workers injured in the crane accident on Sept. 16.

We pray for a full and speedy recovery of all those injured.

Texas is the deadliest state in the country for men and women in construction.  The lack of accountability and the tendency to cut corners to increase profit is the leading cause of workers being injured or killed at work. Texas is one of the few states that does not require Workers’ Compensation Insurance to cover workers injured on a job.

The reduction of funding of OSHA has crippled the agencies’ ability to monitor these sites for safety violations.

What message are we sending our Brothers and Sisters on these construction sites?

We need stronger safety standards for our workers and the time is NOW.

We need oversight that can correct safety hazards before they become deadly. 

We need accountability by builders that use labor to enrich their stockholders and themselves.

Here at Local 520, we stand in solidarity with the injured workers and their families.

Michael A. King, president of IBEW Local 520

The Mueller area is currently undergoing rapid expansion, with several construction projects underway, including a new Dell Children’s Medical Center announced in May.

The scene was cleared as of 1 p.m., ATCEMS says.

A look at crane operating

KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout talked to the Chairman of the Hispanic Contractors Association who was able to walk us through what was most likely going through the crane operators’ heads at the time.

“The construction industry is a beautiful industry, but we also realize how dangerous it is,” said Chairman Frank Fuentes. “Those cranes sway back and forth, it’s not an industry for the weak. They have ice running through their veins, they are very cool headed.”

Fuentes says it’s likely this incident came down to communication.

“You have people down below communicating with the operators, plus the operators up above. Somewhere along the lines there must have been some miscommunication,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes says it’s likely the investigation will go on for some time, and he expects the site to remain shut down for awhile, too.

Crane fatalities in Texas

The Lone Star State tops the list of states where fatal crane accidents happen.

That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who say 40 fatalities involving cranes were reported from 2011 to 2015—more than the number of accidents for the next three states combined.

In that same time period, Illinois reported 12 fatalities, Florida reported 11 and California reported 10.

Jacob Beter, construction worker who was working nearby, told KXAN’s Tom Miller that “This [crane accidents] happens sometimes, you just got to be aware of your surroundings… it’s scary. You just gotta be careful.”

BLS says that just over half of all fatal crane injuries involved the worker being hit by an object or equipment. About 60 out of 112 cases involved a worker being struck by an object falling from a crane.

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