Crane collapse shuts down Tappan Zee Bridge


NEW YORK >> A crane collapsed on the Tappan Zee Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, injuring five people and shutting down traffic in both directions, according to the state and local authorities.

The crane, which was being used in the construction of a $3.9 billion replacement for the aging bridge, fell around noon on the Rockland County side of the bridge, Beau Duffy, a spokesman for the New York State Police, said.

The injuries to the five people were not life-threatening, said Ed Day, the Rockland County executive. Three civilians were hurt in vehicles that swerved during the crane's fall, Day said, and two workers on the construction project were also injured.

No vehicles were struck by the crane, authorities said.

Aerial images showed the broken crane draped across all lanes of the bridge, which is crossed by 138,000 vehicles every day traveling between Rockland and Westchester counties.

Day said that officials had yet to determine the cause of the crane's tumble. There was no indication that there were high winds in the area, he said.

Jeff J. Loughlin, the business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 137, the union that represents the crane's operator, said that the operator remained at the scene with a union representative, and was expected to undergo drug and alcohol testing.

"It's a miracle that the boom fell across six lanes of traffic, cars that are doing 60 to 70 miles an hour, and not one car was hit by the boom," Loughlin said.

The crane's crash raised concerns about the integrity of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which was built to last only 50 years after being constructed cheaply in 1955. Rockland County officials said that the crash damaged the bridge, creating a hole in its deck.

"Our major concern is not so much the construction effort on the new bridge but the structural integrity of the old bridge," Day said.

The bridge remained shut down on Tuesday afternoon, stranding many motorists.

One motorist, Atabey Sanchez, who was heading home to Providence, Rhode Island, was stuck on the bridge for two hours. She said she was about 40 cars from where the crane collapsed.

"I just saw heavy traffic, then we stopped," she said. "Then all these emergency vehicles rushed by. We all started out nervous — what's happening?"

Some took to social media to share pictures of the gridlock and the aftermath of the collapse.

The crane's collapse draws new focus to the construction of the replacement for the Tappan Zee. The new bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, is one of the largest infrastructure projects underway in the United States and has been mentioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as well as President Barack Obama as an exemplary investment in infrastructure.

The collapse came just a day after the governor chided the government for not moving fast enough on infrastructure needs and praised the process by which the Tappan Zee had been contracted out to private companies, during an event at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn.

Traffic on the New York State Thruway, which crosses the bridge, was diverted on both sides. Northbound motorists were diverted off Exit 8, while those traveling south were diverted off Exit 12.

Joseph Berger, Emma Fitzsimmons, Jesse McKinley, Rick Rojas and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.


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