4 dead, several hurt after crane collapses on Seattle's Mercer Street

SEATTLE -- A crane collapsed onto Mercer Street in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, killing four people and sending three others to the hospital.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said it happened at the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue just before 3:30 p.m. Saturday. There were two cranes being dismantled along a building, and one of them collapsed on Mercer Street, crashing into six vehicles.

The Seattle Department of Transportation tweeting all lanes are back open as of Monday morning between Fariview Avenue North and Westlake Avenue North. That part of the road had been closed since the collapse.

4 dead, several hurt

Four people, one woman and three men, died at the scene. Two of the people who died were crane operators, and two others died in separate cars, Scoggins said.

Three others were taken to the hospital. Two of the injured -- a mother and her baby -- were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. A third person, a 28-year-old man, was taken to the hospital where he was listed in satisfactory condition. A fourth person injured was treated at the scene.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office said it would not release names of people who died until Monday.

Praying for a miracle

A witness told Q13 News she was in her apartment when she felt the building shake.

"I thought it was an earthquake," she said. "Then I saw people running from the interstate, so I knew that it wasn’t."

She said she followed a crowd of people to the scene, then immediately started praying.

"I stood here specifically to pray, to pray that there would be a miracle. I saw a man laying on the ground, and I saw the car crush his abdomen, and then the crane was on top of his car," she recalled. "I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nurse, but what I can do is pray."

"My thoughts and prayers are with those killed and injured," Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said on Twitter.

Another witness, Jamel Mcduffy, said he was driving on Dexter Avenue, then turned left onto Mercer right before the crane collapsed.

"Next thing you know I just saw it tilt … it was out of nowhere," he said. "I didn’t know what actually happened. I just knew there was a pile of cars, just lined up. I knew it had to hit something."

"It was traumatizing," Mcduffy said.

The News-Tribune reports that this isn't the first crane disaster in the Puget Sound region. In November 2006, a man was killed inside his apartment in downtown Bellevue when a crane collapsed onto three buildings.

Dozens of cranes in Seattle

With Amazon and other tech companies increasing their hiring in Seattle, the city has dozens of construction cranes building office towers and apartment buildings. As of January, there were about 60 construction cranes in Seattle, more than any other American city.

Scoggins said officials do not yet know the cause of the collapse.

Daren Konopaski, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which represents heavy-equipment operators, told The Seattle Times he understood the crane was being dismantled when heavy winds moved through the area.'

GLY construction released a statement Sunday morning:

"We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by what happened at our job site on the northwest corner of Mercer and Fairview in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Our sympathy and deepest condolences go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed in this tragic accident. We are hopeful for those who have been injured and wish that they return to full health as quickly as possible.

GLY and its sub-contractors involved with this tower crane accident are doing everything we can to investigate the incident. We are cooperating fully with investigators and assisting the local authorities. At this early stage of the investigation, we have no further details. We will share additional information as it becomes available. All inquiries regarding the tower crane accident should be directed to the authorities at this time."

Cause is unknown

"We don't know, but that's what seems to have happened here," he said. "We are in the process of trying to get information."

The National Weather Service in Seattle said a line of showers moved over Seattle just about the time the crane fell. An observation station on nearby Lake Union showed winds kicked up with gusts of up to 23 mph at 3:28 p.m., just about the time officials said the crane fell.

"It was terrifying," witness Esther Nelson, a biotech researcher who was working in a building nearby, told the newspaper.

"The wind was blowing really strong," she said, and added that the crane appeared to break in half. "Half of it was flying down sideways on the building," she said. "The other half fell down on the street, crossing both lanes of traffic."

The office building the crane fell from was badly damaged, with several of its windows smashed.

'Tragic accident'

"Trudi and I join all Washingtonians in extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the four people who died in this afternoon's tragic accident," Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. Inslee also said he hoped for a speedy and full recovery for those injured, thanked first responders and urged people to stay clear of the accident scene.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.