Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Crane topples in FireTree

October 27, 2005

"Black-box technology" may provide the high-tech answer to a crane accident in Baldwin City Monday morning, but the FireTree Estates neighbors already know what the scene was like to them.

"I saw it," said Betty Steenbock, who lives at 213 Silver Leaf Lane, just across the street from where a Polk Crane toppled over into a house under construction at 212 Silver Leaf Lane. "I couldn't yell. I couldn't do anything. It went slow, but it was there and you couldn't do anything about it.

"Thank God he jumped out of there," Steenbock said of the crane operator, who, like everyone else at the work site wasn't injured. "I've never seen anything like this."

Neither had Lloyd Beeghley, who lives next door at 211 Silver Leaf Lane. And, over nine decades, he's seen a lot.

"I didn't see it go over, but I've been here ever since. Ring-side seat," said Beeghley from his garage where he watched the whole scene unfold. "We were farmers. Life-time farmers. I'm 94 years old. I've never seen anything like it."

Greg Polk, co-owner of Polk Crane, hadn't seen anything quite like it, either. He rushed from the Lawrence business to the construction site as soon as he got the call shortly before 9 a.m. He was making phone calls all the way here, looking for help from wrecker services, engineers and insurance adjusters.

"You know, yesterday (Monday) was horrible," said Polk. "It can only get better today. Thankfully, no one got hurt. We take a lot of safety precautions. We don't work with people underneath us."

A crew arrived Tuesday to dismantle the crane, which was unable to de-extend the boom. The "black box" in the crane, similar to those used on airplanes, will be examined to find out the cause of the mishap with the crane, which was new.

"We are speculating that it could have been computer problems. We'll know more in three or four days," said Polk. "It's about a month old."

The accident occurred as the crane was lifting roof joists onto a duplex under construction at FireTree. Somehow, the load became too much and the boom started heading down -- and the truck portion of the crane started heading up. The boom crashed into the wall of a "safe room" in the duplex, an all-concrete room. That saved damage to the rest of the house, said John Heckathorne, Heck's Homes, who is the builder.

"I'm just thankful no one got hurt," said Heckathorne. "The damage was minimal."

He said a ball park figure, including labor, would be about $5,000.

Polk didn't get off so lucky. It was unknown the extent of the damage to the boom and crane truck, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also had to get wrecker crews from the Kansas City area to help get the crane righted.

"That will be quite a bill itself," said Polk.

He said the operator of the crane, Rick Mische, has worked for him for years. Polk was most thankful that Mische or anyone else was injured. He was also thankful for something else.

"Yes, about $40,000 worth of insurance," he said.

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