Burning crane slams into Sydney building

Last updated 16:33 27/11/2012
Fairfax Australia

A crane at an intercity building site in Sydney caught fire and collapsed on Tuesday.

Sydney crane collapse
The crane on fire.
sydney crane
BURNING: The crane just after it collapsed.

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A crane has collapsed into a construction site in central Sydney, after catching ON fire.

The fire has been put out, but smoke was still reportedly coming from the driver's compartment.

The collapse of the crane's arm, or jib, brought down scaffolding at the site at the at the University of Technology. There were no reports of injuries.

Thousands of people were evacuated from surrounding buildings and the incident caused traffic chaos in the middle of Sydney's CBD.
Assistant Superintendent Josh Turner said firefighters had not been able to access the crane cabin yet, but they believed it was diesel fuel on fire.

When fire crews arrived there were flames 10 metres high "leaping" out of the cabin 45 metres above the ground, he said.

The crane operator was able to escape by climbing down a ladder, while hundreds of workers left the site.

"There is still some fire activity from within the crane itself.

"The temperatures have dropped from when we got here from 1000 degrees to less than 100 degrees now.

"We believe what was on fire in there was the diesel fuel that essentially burnt all away."

'ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN'

The construction site was shut down a fortnight ago over concerns diesel was leaking from the crane's cabin, a union official says.

CFMEU state secretary Brian Parker said it's "by chance" no one was injured or killed when the crane caught fire .

Parker said union officials did a full inspection of the site about two weeks ago and closed it down for four days.

"We brought up issues about leaking diesel on the crane and the dieselene leaking from the crane.

"We said to them that a maintenance regime has to take place immediately on the crane.

"That's obvious to us that it's failed to be done and we've had a situation where it's put hundreds of lives at risk."

Parker said it was an "accident waiting to happen".

"If this crane was pointed out on the street ... and it caught fire there could have been hundreds of innocent bystanders killed here today.

"That jib could have collapsed onto the road. It could have been motorists, it could have been pedestrians ... It's just by chance that it wasn't facing that way when it's caught fire.

CROWDS WATCH SPECTACLE

Hundreds of construction workers at a building across the road stopped work and poured out on to balconies to watch the chaos.

A nearby office worker, Matthew McGee-Collett, said there was chaos as police blocked traffic and office workers spilled out onto the streets.

"I actually heard a loud crashing noise and at first I thought a large truck had had some sort of accident, perhaps carrying some sort of load. When I went to the balcony of my office to look I could see the crane on the UTS site nearby had collapsed and there was a fire raging on it," he said.

He said part of the crane collapsed onto a building site and was "hanging there crumpled against the side of the hoarding" on the site.

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"It's lucky the crane didn't fall on the street," he said.

City worker Sean Nunan said he could clearly see smoke and flames from an office building.

"The crane was really burning ... then suddenly the boom just gave way - [it] dropped as though the cable had snapped or given way," he said.

"The crane continued to burn quite furiously for the next 20 minutes and even now we can still see flames."

A group of engineering students saw the crane collapse.

"One of them said 'mate, a crane's on fire' and we've seen it on fire.

"Then we went for another look and we saw the crane just come down and it was quite a shock," Matthew Dyson, 19, said.

"My mate joked it was going to fall and next thing we've heard this crash, bang, carnage everywhere, people running from every different direction."

The crane boom fell, crashing onto trees and scaffolding, he said.

Another student Gus Warman, 30, said he saw a firefighter on the boom.

"As the boom was about to come down, there was a fireman 10 metres up the crane, the main shaft.

"I don't know what happened to him."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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