3 still missing in NYC crane accident

( USA TODAY )- Rescuers continued the search Sunday for two construction workers and a woman missing in the debris of a collapsed town house while crews in New York worked to dismantle a crane that pulled from its moorings Saturday and crashed into six buildings.

"There is no sign of life so far," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

The crash killed at least four construction workers and injured 24 other people, three critically. It destroyed the four-story brownstone, sheared the corner off of a six-story apartment building and closed four blocks on Manhattan's East Side.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said 65 firefighters will search the debris using hand tools, including a device to listen for sounds of the missing people. "With each passing hour, things get a little more grim ," he said.

The crane toppled Saturday afternoon as workers added a section to its top so that they could build the next floors on what is planned to be a 46-story luxury condominium with a rooftop pool at 303 E. 51st St.

The steel brace holding the 200-foot crane to the side of the building slipped, severed a ninth-floor brace and sent the crane toppling, Pat Lancaster, New York City buildings commissioner, said Sunday. The crane's cab, mast and counterweights fell onto the town house, collapsing it, she said. About 130 feet of the crane's boom remained against a 19-story brick building.

"We will look to see whether it was human error or mechanical error," Bloomberg said.

About 250 similar cranes are operating in the city, he said.

The construction site and crane, owned by New York Crane & Equipment Corp., had permits and appeared to be following procedures, Bloomberg said. City building inspectors who had examined the crane Friday found no problems, he said. Other inspectors stopped work on the site Saturday after finding construction debris that could blow away in high winds.

Inspectors had cited the building for construction violations 14 times over 27 months, according to records from the New York City Department of Buildings. The building division fielded 39 complaints about the construction, records show.

"The violations had nothing to do with this," Bloomberg said. "Every large construction site has violations."

Neighbors complained Sunday that the crane never seemed stable.

"I warned the Buildings Department on March 4 that it was not sufficiently braced against the building," said Bruce Silberblatt, a retired contractor and a vice president of the Turtle Bay Neighborhood Association.

On Sunday, the Reliance Construction Group, the project's contractor, released a statement expressing sympathy to the families, and said it was cooperating with government investigators and had launched its own investigation.

New York Crane did not return a phone message left Sunday at its Brooklyn office.

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