Pins removed from the crane can be seen below.
Pins removed from the crane can be seen below.

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries has fined three companies more than $100,000 for safety violations that resulted in the collapse of a crane at the Google campus in South Lake Union that killed four people on April 27.

Northwest Tower Crane Services was in charge of dismantling the crane, which was leased by GLY Construction and owned by Morrow Equipment LLC.

L&I investigators determined that pins and sleeves critical to holding the crane together were removed prematurely, which Morrow approved. All three companies were cited for not following the manufacturer’s procedures for disassembling the crane, and this was the only violation for which Morrow was cited. The company was assessed a $70,000 penalty.

“This employer has been identified as a Severe Violator Enforcement case under the Labor & Industries Division of Occupational Safety & Health's (DOSH), Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP),” according to L&I’s citation and notice of assessment against Morrow. “Your company will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions cited here still exist in the future.”

L&I spokesperson Tim Church said an estimated 50 pins and sleeves had been removed from the crane at the time the collapse occurred. A mobile crane used to disassemble the other should have been attached to the offending crane before the pins were removed, he said.

“With all the pins being removed, and nothing attached to the tower crane, it was in no way structurally sound or rigid as it should have been, which is why the wind blew it over,” Church said. Winds the day of the collapse were around 45 mph. “A crane like this, when properly working, should be able to withstand a hundred-mile-an-hour wind.”

Northwest Tower Crane was fined $12,000.

L&I found the company did not provide adequate training for the disassembly of the crane, stability for the crane, or protections from exposure to movement or collapse for the air crew.

“Two ironworkers were in the cab slewing assembly during wind gusts while the assist crane was not booked to slewing assembly,” the citation states.

Those ironworkers were Andrew Yoder, 31, of North Bend, and Travis Corbet, 33, and they were at the top of the crane when it fell, killing them.

Seattle Pacific University student Sarah Wong, 19, was killed when a segment of the 278-foot crane fell on the vehicle she was traveling in at Fairview Avenue and Mercer Street. Alan Justad, 71, was also crushed while in his vehicle. He retired as deputy director for the Seattle Department of Planning Development in 2014.

GLY Construction was assessed a $25,200 penalty.

L&I found that GLY did not have a qualified person supervising the crane’s disassembly during the collapse; the superintendent had been off site “during the removal of nearly all pins and sleeves prior to the attempt to remove the slewing cab assembly.” Investigators also found that personnel were not made aware of the hazards of not following the manufacturer’s procedures, and the site supervisor did not address adverse conditions at the site, such as wind velocity and heavy rain, according to the citation and notice of assessment. The supervisor also didn’t determine if additional regulations should be applied during the dismantling process.

Church said L&I does not address criminal negligence or liability; that is something determined by a local authority.

“Now, absolutely we would provide information and cooperate. We have been in touch with authorities locally,” Church said, “so they’re aware of what we’re doing and will have access to our reports.”

The three companies found at fault for the crane collapse are also likely to face civil suits by the families of the victims.

“I know that there are many attorneys involved in this already,” Church said. “We met with the families, and all the families have attorneys.”

L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued an alert stressing the importance of following the manufacturer’s procedures when disassembling a crane back in June, Church said, when investigators were fairly certain they knew what caused the April 27 collapse. DOSH also asked contractors to notify the division when crane assembly or disassembly was taking place, according to an Oct. 17 L&I news release, and conducted a number of spot checks as a result.