West Peachtree to remain closed rest of week as crews work to dismantle dangling crane

ATLANTA — Authorities said Sunday that it could take several more days to dismantle and remove a crane dangling precariously over Midtown Atlanta.

Channel 2′s Christian Jennings was on West Peachtree Street Sunday, where crews were starting the process of reinforcing the unstable crane before they will begin to dismantle it.

Officials said portions of West Peachtree Street will be closed through the end of the week. Officials said residents and neighboring businesses that were evacuated should be able to return before that time, but didn’t give a specific time frame.

One residential building, the Atlantic House, was evacuated, and residents are being housed at a nearby building. Christensen and his wife had only minutes to get out of their apartment building last week,

“It’s been a little treacherous,” Mike Christensen told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington. “We’re staying at the Marriott on 14th. It’s doing but it’s not home.”

While the street will remain close, officials believe people like Christensen who evacuated from the apartment building should be able to return over the next few days.

“The Atlantic House has been extremely professional. They give us updates daily, more than one and they’re hoping we’re going to get in for a short period, so we can get some necessities,” he said.

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Northside Medical Midtown and Urgent Care will also be closed Monday and possibly into the week.

The process to reinforce the crane will take through the evening and into tomorrow. Crews will then work to dismantle the crane, which is currently attached to a 31-story skyscraper that is under construction.

“The timeline of when that will be completed will be determined by the progress today, and we will share an update tomorrow,” officials with construction company Brasfield & Gorrie said. “Once the crane is safely dismantled, crews will need to disassemble the assist cranes that were brought in to complete this task.”

Officials said the crane became unstable after a hydraulic cylinder malfunctioned as crews were trying to take the crane down on Friday morning.

Hundreds of tons of equipment from Georgia as well as from other states have been brought in to try to remove the crane, including two additional cranes. Officials said those cranes will also have to be dismantled.

On Saturday night, crews appeared to still be building the new cranes they’ll need to get hundreds of feet up in the air.

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.

Atlanta police said Friday afternoon that officials feared the damage the crane could cause to nearby buildings if it fell.

“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?”

[PHOTOS: Titled crane causes evacuations in Midtown]

Alex Fawal, who lives next door, said he was forced to evacuate Friday.

“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.”

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.