NEW YORK (Reuters) - A construction crane collapsed in lower Manhattan during a swirling snowstorm on Friday, killing one person and crushing parked cars in the first accident of its kind in New York City since 2008.
Hundreds of emergency workers responded after the 565-foot-tall crane toppled at about 8:30 a.m. EST and flipped upside down, leaving the metal boom stretched along nearly two city blocks.
At the time, workers were lowering the crane to secure it as winds approached 25 miles per hour, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.
It was not yet known if wind played a role in the collapse. An investigation was underway and the crane operator was being interviewed, de Blasio said.
Manhattan resident David Wichs, 38, was killed in the collapse, police said. At least three others had non-life-threatening injuries including two with head lacerations, officials said.
De Blasio said pedestrians has been cleared from the street before workers began lowering the crane, averting a potentially greater calamity during the morning rush to work. "Thank God it was not worse," he said.
The crane was owned by Bay Crane, based in the New York City borough of Queens, and operated by Queens-based GTI, or Galasso Trucking. A person who answered the phone at Bay Crane declined to comment. A Galasso representative could not be reached.
The crane had been used since Jan. 30 at 60 Hudson Street, a landmark once known as the Western Union building. Workers were replacing generators and air conditioning equipment on the roof, officials said. The building houses data centers.
De Blasio said inspectors had visited the site on Thursday, checked the crane in advance of the project's next phase and found no problems.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a statement on Friday criticizing the buildings department for not implementing certain safety improvements. "Crane safety is a crisis, but the city has not treated it like one," Stringer said.
Stringer said a 2014 audit and follow-up report released on Friday found the agency had failed to fully adopt dozens of recommendations from a 2008 study to improve worksite safety.
The "crawler crane" is among 376 used in construction in New York City. Another 53 taller "tower cranes" are also being operated in the city.
After Friday's collapse, the city ordered all cranes to be shut down and secured due to the wind.
Witnesses described a deafening boom as the crane crashed to the street a few blocks from City Hall and a half-mile from the World Trade Center site.
Nicholi White, 20, who works for online grocer Fresh Direct, said he was waiting to deliver boxes when he saw it fall.
"When the crane hit the ground, I heard a loud bang, it sounded like a bomb," he said. "One of the loudest sounds I heard in my life."
Four buildings were damaged, city officials said. They said they were also monitoring multiple gas leaks, none of which had risen to dangerous levels.
The incident was the first crane collapse since 2008, when nine people died in two separate accidents, according to officials.
In 2012, a construction crane partially collapsed on top of a nearly completed, 90-story apartment building during high winds brought by Superstorm Sandy.
Last May, a cable on a construction crane also owned by Bay Crane snapped at a high-rise office building in Midtown Manhattan as it lifted an air conditioning unit. The unit plunged nearly 30 stories, injuring 10 people.