ATLANTA — Authorities are still working to remove a crane dangling over Midtown that has prompted the evacuation of several buildings nearby.
Channel 2′s Matt Johnson was in Midtown Saturday night, where the crane is still dangling precariously over 13th Street and West Peachtree. Officials said the crane became unstable after a hydraulic cylinder malfunctioned as crews were trying to take the crane down.
The crane is attached to a 31-story skyscraper that has been under construction since 2018.
Hundreds of tons of equipment from Georgia as well as from other states have been brought in to try to remove the crane.
On Saturday night, crews appeared to still be building the new cranes they’ll need to get hundreds of feet up in the air. The compromised crane was still in the same position. Officials with the construction company said that crews will begin reinforcing the tower crane on Sunday.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby buildings on Friday and roads remain closed between 11th and 14 streets. Residents at one apartment building have been displaced.
Officials said the goal is to get those residents back home by Sunday night, and they’re up against weather too with rain moving in Monday.
Atlanta police said Friday afternoon that officials feared the crane was in jeopardy of falling down.
“That lead the top of the crane to start to lean, as you can see behind me. The crane, I can say, is in jeopardy of falling down,” said Atlanta Fire Capt. Cortez Stafford. “The concern is if this crane comes down, how will it affect the other buildings in the area? What building will it damage?”
Just before 7 p.m. Friday night, a crane reinforcement arrived on the scene to help bring the unstable crane down safely.
“There will be increased activity at the job site as the team continues to erect and position assist cranes, which take significant time to assemble,” officials said. “The team is reinforcing the tower crane that will then be dismantled. We appreciate the residents’ and community’s patience during this process.”
Alex Fawal, who lives next door, said he was forced to evacuate.
“We just got an alert telling us to leave as soon as possible,” Fawal said. “It was a shock to me. I’m just glad I got out of here when I did, so hopefully nothing bad will happen.”
Officials said that Sunday seems like the best-case scenario for when a lot of the evacuees will be able to come home.
One evacuated couple said they plan to stay with a friend for the weekend.
Denise and P.K. Kalentzistzis said they grabbed everything they could.
“We heard them talking about maybe having to evacuate the building, so we just ran down, grabbed our stuff and just bounced before everything shut down,” he said. “There’s a lot of smart people working on this, so I just have faith in them that they’re going to be able to take it down.”
The Atlantic House has arranged for residents to stay at a nearby building through the weekend.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr learned that the crane is operated by Brasfield and Gorie. There were no red flags in any recent OSHA records or city building inspection records, but those agencies will want to know who was operating the crane and what was happening with the system used to get it that high against the building.
Carrtalked to three crane operators or inspectors, who all said the same thing: They believe contractors were jacking the crane down to a level where they could dismantle it and lost control of the weight.
Retired crane inspector Ronald Brodek agreed.
“They were jumping the tower crane,” Brodek said. “It jumps 19 feet, six inches at a time. The only thing that was supporting it was hydraulic jack and that’s usually run by a portable hydraulic pump. It’s an electric hydraulic pump and it charges the cylinder and then the cylinder will raise the crane up and the crane, there’s a certain position it’s got to be in so it’s balanced.”
Brodek said the incident could have been much worse.
“Disastrous,” Brodek said. “It could have been really bad.”
Brodek said OSHA will probably be asking who was running the jack and whether or not all the safeties were in place or there were any leaks.
“Maybe a hydraulic line blew,” Brodek said. “I don’t know. You just don’t know. Maybe a seal blew the jack.”
Carr asked Brodek if the issue was caused by human error and he said it was.
“Once you’re up so high, a mobile crane from the ground can’t do it,” Brodek said.
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