The operator of a crane that collapsed at a New York City construction site was trying to lift a load more than twice as heavy as the crane's capacity in a place where it shouldn't have been, officials said Thursday.
The Department of Buildings suspended Paul Geer's crane operator license following a preliminary investigation into the collapse that injured seven construction workers Wednesday afternoon in Queens.
The agency said Geer was trying to lift a load of close to 24,000 pounds when its 170-foot-long boom fell onto metal scaffolding and the wooden framework that made up the first floor of what will be a 25-story apartment building. None of the injuries were life-threatening.
Buildings Commissioner Robert Limandri also said Geer couldn't see what was being lifted by the crane, and was trying to move the materials outside of an approved zone.
A telephone number for Geer could not be found. TF Cornerstone, the project's main contractor, did not return a call seeking comment.
The construction site remains closed.
The equipment was leased from New York Crane and Equipment Corp. by a subcontractor for TF Cornerstone.
Construction cranes have been a source of safety concerns since two giant rigs collapsed in Manhattan in 2008, killing a total of nine people. One of those was owned by New York Crane. Owner James Lomma was tried and acquitted on manslaughter charges stemming from that incident, which killed two workers.
The Empire State Development Corp., which is overseeing the project, said work on the tower started in November. It is the last residential building at the Queens West development, located behind the landmark neon "Pepsi-Cola" sign near the East River waterfront. The building is slated to be completed in early 2014 but city officials could not say how long work will be shut down.
Engineers will examine the history of the crane involved in Wednesday's collapse as part of the investigation, including the equipment's maintenance and operation records.
The 2008 accidents led to new safety measures, including hiring more inspectors and expanding training requirements and inspection checklists.