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Harvard Graduate Killed After Crane Collapses Onto His Car in Manhattan: Officials


A 38-year-old Harvard graduate was killed when a crane toppled more than 200 feet from a Manhattan building and landed on his car on Friday, authorities said.

A construction team was in the process of lowering and securing the 565-foot tall crawler crane because of winds topping 20 mph amid a snow storm when it toppled over at Worth and Church Streets in Tribeca about 8:25 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Emergency responders rushed to the grisly scene, where the large machine had smashed into several buildings as it fell onto cars parked below.

David Wichs was found dead inside his car, which had been crushed by the crane, officials said. 

“Our hearts go out to the families of the individual who’s been lost,” de Blasio said at a press conference.

Wichs was a hard-working, Ivy League-educated immigrant who moved to the United States from Prague as a teenager, his family told reporters. 

Lisa Guttman, Wichs' sister-in-law, told the Associated Press that Wichs worked tirelessly to succeed in life, calling him "the most brilliant person ever" and "the most special person ever." 

Wichs worked at the New York-based computerized financial trading firm Tower Research Capital, Guttam said. 

"He was an angel, an absolute angel," a man leaving Wich's apartment building on West 81st Street told The New York Daily News. "He was a wonderful, wonderful person. He was the best, the absolute best, and that's what makes this tragedy that much greater."

A 45-year-old woman with a leg injury and a laceration to the head was taken to Beekman Hospital. A 73-year-old man with a laceration to the head was brought to Bellevue Hospital. Both were in stable condition, police said. 

One other person sustained minor injuries after being hit by debris.

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Officials said two people were taken to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition.

About 140 members of the FDNY responded to the scene, as well as EMS workers and police, officials said.

The mayor said the Department of Buildings was on site early Thursday to approve next steps for the crane, which was working on 60 Hudson Street, the former Western Union building. 

"DOB reviewed the work and approved it," he said. "But no work was done this morning because the crew made the decision to bring the crane down to the secure position."

As the crane was lowered and secured, a construction crew directed people and traffic away from the area, which would normally be densely populated with commuters during the rush hour.

“The fact is this is a very, very sad incident, we’ve lost a life … Thank God it was not worse,” de Blasio said.

People were evacuated from the immediate area as officials with the FDNY and Con Edison monitored gas leaks caused by the collapse, conducting sweeps of the affected buildings every 15 minutes, de Blasio said.

Police have set up barricades around the scene. No. 1, 2 and 3 subway trains are bypassing the Chambers Street and Franklin Street stops.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse of the crane, which has a capacity of 330 tons and damaged four buildings as it toppled to the ground.  

The other 376 potentially active crawler cranes and 43 tower cranes in the city have been ordered to go into their secure positions immediately, de Blasio said.  

The machinery was being operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging and belonged to Bay Crane, officials said.

Bay Crane owned a crane involved in an accident in midtown in 2015.

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In that incident, an industrial air conditioner being hoisted by a crane to the top of a Madison Avenue building fell 30 stories after a cable collapsed, injuring 10 people in that May 2015 incident.

A man who answered the phone at Bay Crane said that the matter was under investigation and that they were waiting to hear back from their “field people,” but would not confirm if the crane was owned by the company.

Bay Crane refers to itself on its website as “the leader in specialized transportation and logistics planning for the implementation of heavy hauling solutions in New York.” The company has been in operation for 75 years. 

Neither Bay Crane nor Galasso Trucking and Rigging have had any recent negative activity reported, officials said.

The last crane collapse in New York City occurred in 2008, after which precautions were put in place to work towards preventing future incidents, said de Blasio, who disagreed there was an “epidemic” of crane accidents in the city.

“It’s a very painful day. I’m not going to minimize what happened here … (But) this is something that hasn’t happened in almost a decade,” he said.

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