Crane collapse kills 2 in NYC

Rescue teams search for any sign of life in the rubble.
Rescue teams search for any sign of life in the rubble.

NEW YORK (WCBS) - At least one person died in a crane collapse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Friday morning, the second deadly collapse in nearly three months. Several others have been injured at the construction site at 91st Street and First Avenue and were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

Hundreds of firefighters and officials from the Office of Emergency Management were on the scene working to search for other victims. Air inflation devices were mobilized to help lift some of the heavy debris.

The high-rise tower, located on the northwest corner of the intersection, was still unstable, CBS 2 learned.

"This is totally mind blowing," Manhattan borough President Scott Stringer told CBS 2. "It looks like a bomb exploded in Manhattan. It's just a total tragedy."

Rescue units appeared to have found another victim in the rubble, bringing a backboard into the rubble to pull out the person, believed to be a survivor.

A Duane Reade pharmacy at the bottom of the building also sustained severe damage from the collapse, though it's not known how many people were inside at the time.

"This never used to happen, and now it happens all the time," Stringer said.

CBS 2's Sean Hennessey was at the scene of the collapse and described the feeling among onlookers.

"We're in the midst of a crowd of people, people wondering how this happened again, and it has happened again with horrible consequences," he said.

Hennessey said a construction worker described hearing "four pops" and seeing bolts snap on the crane after hearing the sound.

Another woman told Hennessey that she said she'd noticed the crane had been shaking in recent days.

CBS 2's Jay Dow said a witness compared the sound and vibrations from the collapse to an earthquake.

The collapse is the second in nearly three months, the first occurring on March 15 on Manhattan's east side, killing seven people. Since then, the city's Buildings Department faced scrutiny for its inspections of construction sites.

A city inspector was arrested for falsifying records prior to the March collapse, and the buildings commissioner resigned a short time after.

Officials have shut down 91st Street at First Avenue in all surrounding areas.

City Councilman Tony Avella, who works on the city's Buildings Committee, had harsh words for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the collapse, telling CBS 2, "The mayor has to share a lot of the blame.

"Construction of buildings is out of control in this city," he said. "How many people have to die before the mayor decides enough is enough? ... Every crane operation in the city needs to be shut down in the city at this point until it's fully inspected."

On his morning radio show, Bloomberg said an investigation was underway.

"We are not going to stall ... rest assured," he said. "How are you gonna explain to somebody who's dead [to] their relatives that accidents happen? That's not a good answer.

"It's just unacceptable, we have to figure out what happened here."

The building under construction was a middle school that was attached to a residential high-rise.

Stay with WTOL.com for more on this developing story. We'll also have the latest on News 11 at Noon.

Posted by N. Dutton | WCBS-TV contributed this report.