Crane collapses on Niedermeyer Apartments

Friday, October 2, 2009 | 4:59 p.m. CDT; updated 6:28 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 2, 2009
Workers help lift the fallen Watkins Roofing crane at 3:30 p.m. after it was blown over by high winds. The crane landed on 920 Cheery St. around 10:30 a.m on Friday. "The good thing is that nobody was hurt," a worker said after lifting the crane from the roof.

COLUMBIA — A construction crane working on Booche’s restaurant toppled onto Niedermeyer Apartment Complex, located at Tenth and Cherry streets. The Friday morning incident caused structural damage, but there were no known injuries.

Columbia Fire Department Capt. Eric Hartman said strong winds knocked the crane over as it was carrying a load of roof debris.


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“Once the crane operator got the load of roof debris into the air, a strong gust of wind took control of the load,” he said. “He attempted to recover but could not do so.”

The department has not reported any injuries and no damage assessment has been made yet by the city’s Protective Inspections Division.

Because the alley is a tight space, the machine operator did not extend the left side outriggers, used to stabilize the truck while the crane is operating, Hartman said.

“That didn’t cause the accident, but it certainly directly contributed to it,” he said.

Miles Barnhart, 20, lives on the second floor where the crane fell through the roof. He said the crane fell right on his bathroom ceiling and left a hole in the roof.

“I was sitting in my living room and I heard the workers talking and yelling on the street. I looked out my window and saw the crane falling,” he said.

Barnhart said debris covered his apartment, but he didn’t leave immediately when it happened.

“The first thing I did was grab my camera battery charger to take pictures, and I updated my Facebook status,” he said. “It’s not every day a crane falls through your apartment.”

Barnhart chose to stay elsewhere for the night, though no emergency housing was needed after the incident.

“Nobody was displaced due to structural damage,” Hartman said. “The building is tenable.”

Ian McHugh, a 21-year-old first floor resident, said he was lying in bed when he heard the crash.

“I don’t recall feeling any tremors or shakes, but I saw the big boom sticking out of the roof,” he said.

McHugh said evacuating the building was an orderly process despite the shock of the incident.

“It all happened so fast, but everyone was civil leaving the building,” he said.

Some residents even had time to grab their belongings, like William Watkins, who lives on the second floor across from Barnhart. Watkins was on the street corner with a briefcase, portable radio and cup of coffee in tow.

Watkins said it didn’t take the Fire Department long to respond to the scene.

“My first thought was a sonic jet was passing in the sky, but then I felt the complex shake a little bit,” he said. “Within minutes I saw fire trucks coming.”

There were five to 10 Watkins Roofing Co. workers on the scene when the crane fell over.

Hartman said he has not seen a crane tip over in the years he’s been with the Fire Department.

“You don’t see this every day," he said. "It certainly could’ve been a lot worse if the crane didn’t land on the roof and someone was walking near the scene."

Several emergency vehicles were at the scene when police taped off the area around the complex and the alley where the collapse occurred. Passers-by flocked to the incident, asking questions and marveling at the damage to the roof.

Inspectors do not yet know how many people were in the building at the time of the collapse.

The Fire Department cleared vehicles at about 1:30 p.m. on Tenth and Cherry streets to allow access for cranes to lift the fallen crane from the building.

Callahan and Galloway Property Management Inc. manages the apartment building.

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