Midday Crane Collapse On TZB Will Be Investigated

Jul 19, 2016

A crane collapsed across lanes of traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge around noon today. More than 138,000 cars per day cross the bridge, which spans Rockland and Westchester Counties. The collapse happened on the Rockland side. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on the Westchester side, in Tarrytown, around 3:30.

“If you said to me that a boom could fall across the Tappan Zee Bridge at noon, not hit a car, not hit a person and there’d be no serious injury, I wouldn’t believe it,” Cuomo says.

Cuomo says there were 28 cranes operating for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and one malfunctioned.

“One of the cranes that was operating what they call a vibratory hammer had an issue, we don’t know exactly what caused the malfunction but there was a malfunction that caused the vibratory hammer crane to collapse,” Cuomo says. “When the crane collapsed, it went across both sides of the, what we call the old Tappan Zee Bridge.”

Cuomo says a bridge contractor and the crane operator suffered minor injuries and no vehicle hit the crane.

“There were two cars that had minor accidents in avoiding the fallen crane but, miraculously, there were no serious injuries whatsoever,” says Cuomo. “The crane operator is being checked but we believe he will be fine. The Tappan Zee contractor worker, we believe, is going to be fine.”

Terry Towle is president of Tappan Zee Constructors. He says the investigation will look into whether the problem was with the crane or hammer or whether it was operator error.

“The crane that failed is a new crane. Fortunately, the manufacturer’s rep was on site when it failed and so they’re also looking into it,” Towle says. “And the task that the crane was performing, driving pile, is routine task. It’s not a special task. We’ve driven thousands of piles out here and so until we have a full investigation we really don’t know why this had an issue.”

He says wind was not a factor. Cuomo says the incident should not affect the timetable of the new 3-mile twin span bridge, which is set to be complete in 2018. Cuomo says engineers will inspect the bridge for structural damage and the bridge would not be opened until it’s confirmed there is no such damage.

“Even though the deck may look fine, you don’t know what happened or could have happened underneath the bridge to the supporting structure. Again, it’s a very old bridge that has been pieced together for a very long time. It should have been replaced decades ago.”

He says it appears there was significant damage to at least one lane on the south side of the bridge. Here’s Rockland County Executive Ed Day.

“It looks a lot like the old punch-throughs where you actually see the water through the roadway,” Day says. “This is something we had dealt with before the bridge was re-decked.”

For now, Cuomo says traffic is the biggest problem.

“In the meantime, people should use other routes,” Cuomo says. “You have the George Washington Bridge. You have the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. You have the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge and you have the Bear Mountain Bridge, all of which could be used as alternatives to the Tappan Zee.”

Ned McCormack is spokesman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“Everybody is just so pleased that the injuries are few and minor so we really avoided what could have been a catastrophic situation,” McCormack says.

He says Westchester’s role has been working on guiding traffic. Cuomo says the $3.98 billion new Tappan Zee is the largest infrastructure project under way in the U.S.   

UPDATE:  Via Governer Cuomo : The three northbound lanes are open. The Southbound lanes, which is where the damage occurred, one southbound lane will be open around 7:00 this evening. Two Southbound lanes should be opening at 8:00 this evening. By Wednesday morning rush hour, the expectation is that the southernmost lane will remain closed but the other lanes will be open.