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phoenix crane accident

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#1 Sandy Hays

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 09:24 PM

First, no one was hurt in this accident.

This past monday I was to do a step off from a Movietech Phoenix crane but the crane "broke " while balancing for my weight. I was working the shot with the director and DP and a PA of close enough weight was strapped into the seat on the crane and the bucket was filled with lead. The crane was balanced to the PA's weight and he stayed on the crane in a position level to the ground for at least 5 minutes.

Then failure. Above the main arm of the crane is the parallelogram post running from the nose platform through the centerpost to the weight bucket. This post (forgive me if this is not the true name of the post) keeps the platform level to the ground as the crane booms up and down. The post consists of several section each about 4 feet long. This allows the crane to be set up for different lenghts. It was a connection on this post that separated.

When this connection was broken there was nothing to keep the platform level (or stable) and it instantly flopped down 90 degrees leaving the PA swinging upside down and rightfully distressed. The bucket was emptied, our PA returned to land, and tended to by the medic. Thankfully, the crane was high enough off the ground so he was not slammed into the cobblestone street.

Yes, I refused to ride on the crane and no one questioned why.

I have done two or three step offs from the Phoenix but I will no longer.

There is no "visually positive" locking feature on the parallelogram bar. A knob on the end of one section enters the end of another section and is the clamped, an internal clamp / block catches on the edge of the knob securing the sections. However, one can not see if this block is engaged. What is even more disconcerting is that the crane was under load for a period of time before the separation occurred. I would think if the sections were not connected tightly there would be a failure during loading weights. Regardless, there is no way of telling that the sections of the parallelogram bar are locked. If there was a locking pin you could see holding the connection or a collar that joined two piece one could be sure of a true connection.

I don't have a firm grasp of crane mechanics and have been able to do only a simple autopsy of this accident but what I do wish to impart is an awareness that this crane is unsafe to ride as it is now. Efforts are being made here in New York to inform, not just camera people, but all key grips that this crane is unsafe. It is my hope that this info will spread.

The PA is fine. He was sent to the hospital and released later. Sandbags would have been a better choice as a stand in for me (they take direction better) but if bags were used they would have slid off the platform and the weight bucket would have crushed at least one grip.

Sandy Hays
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#2 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 07:26 AM


Glad everyone is okay. That was a close call. After hearing about Bill's accident a couple of years ago and the insurance company refusing to pay disability because a "crane step off is not an OSHA approved activity" one is left scratching their head.

Looking forward to lunch next week. I'll be in touch.
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#3 Brad Hruboska

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:40 AM

Sandy, I tell you Crane step offs are a worrisome thing. I have had a few step 'ons' that left my stomach behind, especially if the rise up gets a shimmy in it and you wind up surfing to maintain balance on the platform.

I do have a background in Cranes and Fortunately was never involved directly with an incident, but have heard my share and seen the aftermath.

The Horzontal bar on most break down type cranes is comprised of either square or round bar stock, and the means of fastening vary greatly. Some are held by bolts that have to be inserted and threaded in to secure them, some use aluminum plunger pins which actually have a very good weight rating in the larger sizes. There are also turnbuckle assemblies for adjusting the length of the bar precisely to achieve level. The threads in the turnbuckle can also wear.
There are usually more incidents with Crane tip overs, than parts failure. Often cribbing is insufficient, and the wood splinters. I check all the fittings and track before I ride.
It would be nice to see a representative of the Movietech company making an action statement re; this incident and come forward with an upgrade to alleviate the possibility of a repeat incident.

Brado ;)
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#4 Benjamin Treplin

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 03:52 AM

I found this on the MovieTech site. Is this the connection you where referring to?
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#5 Charles Papert

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 11:47 AM


After hearing about Bill's accident a couple of years ago and the insurance company refusing to pay disability because a "crane step off is not an OSHA approved activity" one is left scratching their head.

I have started a dialogue with Local 600 and the IA rep to the CSATF about crane safety and the obvious conflicts it presents with what we were taught in the safety classes. It ground to a halt a while ago but this is a good reminder to get it going again and see it through.
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