Company in Gallatin crane collapse has history of accidents
GALLATIN, TN (WSMV) -
Federal safety officials are investigating what caused a crane to collapse Tuesday and topple on to a moving car, and the Channel 4 I-Team has learned the company in charge of that crane has a history of work site accidents.
In fact, according to inspection reports, the company had construction workers die on previous jobs.
Some said it was a miracle nobody was seriously hurt on Highway 109 in Gallatin when the crane came crashing down.
"We do know there were strong winds at that time in the afternoon, but we don't know if the wind contributed in what happened," said Gallatin police officer Bill Storment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be in charge of making that call, and an OSHA spokesperson said it could take as long as six months before that inspection is done.
Now, the Channel 4 I-Team is learning new information about the company the Tennessee Department of Transportation said was in charge of the crane at the time of the collapse.
According to OSHA records, in December 2005, a worker was killed on a Mountain States Contractors LLC construction site in Nashville when a wall collapsed.
Then, in November 2010, another employee died in Memphis from asphyxiation after a hammer fell from a crane and hit the guardrail to which the worker was tied, sending the worker into the water below.
And in 2011, TDOT temporarily suspended construction projects by Mountain States Contractors and another company following a second fatality on a bridge project they were working on in Knoxville. After completing a safety review of projects across the state, TDOT later allowed work to resume.
The crane incident Tuesday in Gallatin was at the site of another TDOT bridge project. Federal OSHA officials are taking the lead in the investigation because the crane was sitting on a river barge.
The two men who were in the car when the crane hit are OK, but other drivers were surprised anyone was able to walk away.
"It was pretty bad. They never hit the brakes. They were doing probably 35 mph, and it was just a hard impact. It made a pop when it hit," said witness David Smith.
A spokesman for Mountain States Contractors said the company is cooperating with OSHA and is also doing its own investigation to make sure this never happens again.
As for the previous accidents, the company said in each case it took action to improve safety.
"Safety and accident prevention are our top priorities, and we do our very best to protect our employees and the public. When we fall short of that goal, we investigate thoroughly and train or re-train in order to prevent as best we can any future occurrence," said Mountain States spokesman John Van Mol.
Mol added the company has safety briefings every day at each of its job sites.
The Channel 4 I-Team asked OSHA officials if there are any standards in place for securing cranes in bad weather, but we have not yet received a response.
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