“It sounded like pipes falling. It was a loud crash; it made me turn.”
That’s how Austin resident Diane Stewart described the moment two cranes collided at a construction site in the Mueller neighborhood where she lives. Mueller, a northeast section of Austin, is rapidly expanding, and construction noise has become the norm. Yet, the noises Stewart heard at approximately 9:30 AM on Wednesday wasn’t the sound of construction work—it was the sound of a catastrophic crane accident. Stewart said it sounded like a car crash.
What Stewart heard was a crash; it just didn’t involve cars. Two cranes had entangled their wires at a construction site in the 1600 block of Robert Browning Street. The incident broke off a chunk of one of the cranes, sending workers on the ground running for their lives. When medics arrived at the scene at 9:38 AM, 22 people required medical assistance, and 16 of them were taken to the hospital.
By 11:00 AM, officials addressed the media about the incident. However, complications at the scene had not yet been resolved. One operator remained inside one of the doomed cranes. His foot remained firmly planted on the brake of the crane as he waited for help to arrive.
What Caused the Austin Crane Accident?
Currently, officials are uncertain what caused the collision. When reporters asked construction workers for an account of what happened, they directed any questions to their managers. Cadence McShane, the construction company in charge of the project, did not immediately respond to questions. When the company did release a statement, it didn’t provide any details about the cause of the accident.
“We are in close contact with our subcontractors, local authorities, and our on-site team to better understand what transpired,” Craig Morris, senior vice president for Cadence McShane, said in a statement. “More importantly, we are working with the crane subcontractor and the fire department to ensure the damaged crane is safely dismantled. Since this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot provide additional details at this time.”
Catellus, the development company that is managing the project, released a similar statement.
A Cadence McShane Employee Was Killed in 2017
While details about the partial crane collapse remain unclear, it’s known that Cadence McShane doesn’t have a clean safety record. In August of 2017, a worker at an Austin construction site was killed by a concrete slab. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration report about the fatal construction accident, the employee was crushed after the rigging being used to move the concrete slab failed. The company was fined for a serious safety violation by OSHA because of the incident.
Our team will follow updates to this story as officials continue their investigation.