The owner of the Midtown crane that went up in smoke before plummeting more than 40 stories on Wednesday morning has also been linked to fatal crane collapses over a decade ago, according to the Department of Buildings.
Onlookers looked on in horror as smoke plumed from the rig over the cobalt city skyline on July 26. Some gazed upward, others watched the catastrophe through the scenes of their cellphones, but all searched for answers.
Twenty-four hours later, some details are starting to emerge. Buildings Department Commissioner Jimmy Oddo revealed that the crane is owned the New York City Crane & Equipment Corp., the same company that saw two collapses back in 2008 before pledging to investigate the matter.
“Give us some time. We will be looking at all the parties and their records, and we will get you more information as soon as possible,” Oddo said.
New York City Crane & Equipment Corp. was founded by James Lomma, whose surname still appears on the machinery long after his death in 2019. The company also operated a crane that fell on March 15, 2008, also in Midtown. A pedestrian and six construction workers lost their lives on 51st Street and 2nd Avenue when the apparatus collapsed some 20 stories.
A second crane collapse under the same ownership also took place in 2008 mere months later on May 30. This time the crane operator, Donald Leo, 30, was killed along with Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, a construction worker when it failed on East 91st Street and 1st Avenue while colliding with a neighboring building — eerily similar to what would take place 15 years later. Owner James Lomma was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
However, in 2015 a civil trial in the Manhattan Supreme Court found Lomma liable for Kurtaj and Leo’s death and was ordered to pay out $96 million to their families.
According to the New York Daily News, the latest calamity appeared to have been sparked by a hydraulic fluid leak.
The injury toll in Wednesday’s collapse has now climbed to 12, with 10 civilians and two firefighters rushed to local hospitals where they are expected to survive.
Still, even with the injuries reaching double digits, Mayor Eric Adams declared that the victims were extremely fortunate to make it out of the chaos with their lives since the crane was also carrying a 16-ton load at the time of the dramatic collapse.
“Why we’re so lucky is not only the boom falling to the street, but all of that concrete could have struck civilians had this has spread out throughout the area here, so we were extremely, extremely lucky,” Mayor Adams said.
The Buildings Department continues to investigate the incident.