The operator at the helm of the construction crane that collapsed in flames in Manhattan previously had his operating license suspended and was fined $25,000 when a colleague plummeted 48 stories to his death, it has been revealed.
Chris Van Duyne, 62, narrowly escaped with his life when the crane he was operating caught fire before collapsing and injuring 12 people on the Manhattan sidewalks.
The building equipment was attached to a luxury 47 story apartment building under construction on 41st Street and 10th Avenue near Hudson Yards, before a hydraulic fluid leak caused it to spark into flames.
The incident, which saw the crane strike the side of another skyscraper before it smashed into the sidewalk, comes as New York Daily News reported that Van Duyne had been previously charged following a construction accident in 2008 that saw his co-worker fall 48 stories to his death.
Van Duyne was hit with administrative charges and had his crane operating license suspended for eight months alongside his brother James Van Duyne after Anthony Esposito, 48, fell and died on September 4, 2008 during the construction of Silverstein Towers at 600 West 42nd Street.
Chris Van Duyne, 62, (pictured on Wednesday after his crane collapsed) narrowly escaped with his life when the crane he was operating caught fire before collapsing and injuring 12 people on the Manhattan sidewalks
The building equipment was attached to a luxury 47 story apartment building under construction on 41st Street and 10th Avenue near Hudson Yards, before a hydraulic fluid leak caused it to spark into flames (pictured)
Pictured: The destroyed crane after it smashed into the Manhattan sidewalk on Wednesday
The brothers had cut the guardrail of a work platform which was attached to the tower crane, a joint investigation between the Department of Investigations and Department of Buildings found.
Esposito, who was married with three kids, was helping the brothers dismantle the crane when he lost his footing and fell to his death.
He was wearing a safety harness but it was not attached, reported New York Post at the time.
Van Duyne and his brother were both charged with endangering public safety and violating city construction codes and fined $25,000 each, it was reported at the time.
They were both forced to complete 30 hours of DOB safety training and had their crane operating license suspended for eight months.
It comes as video footage shows the moment Van Duyne’s crane burst into flames on Wednesday, with the worker seen swiftly scrambling down a ladder to safety.
As he makes his escape, fellow construction employees joke and begin to chant: ‘We don’t need no water let the motherf****r burn.’
A total of 12 people have been injured. Two victims are in a serious condition – including one of the two firefighters who are among the injured.
In the video, a worker on the construction site is heard saying ‘it’s on fire’ and ‘he’s coming down’ as his colleague Van Duyne makes his way down a ladder – with smoke seen billowing out the top of the burning crane.
An employee, who is recording the video, then says: ‘Oh s**** that s*** is coming off.’
Video footage shows the moment Van Duyne’s crane burst into flames on Wednesday, with the worker (circled) seen swiftly scrambling down a ladder to safety
Van Duyne tried to put out the fire but fled the cab once he realized the blaze was too large, according to co-workers who identified him on Wednesday morning
The crane quickly ignites and a large red flame is seen burning. Staff on the site are heard chanting ‘the roof is on fire, we don’t need no water let the motherf***** burn.’
Another worker urgently asks someone to ‘go get the fire extinguisher’.
The video then pans to a view of the skyline and the crane is seen dangling above the sidewalk.
DailyMail.com first published an image of the shaken construction worker who was operating the crane before it burst in flames and collapsed.
Van Duyne tried to put out the fire but fled the cab once he realized the blaze was too large, according to co-workers who identified him on Wednesday morning.
He appeared shocked and shaken after the ordeal, and declined to comment when approached by a DailyMail.com reporter.
The crane he was inside collapsed and struck the side of another skyscraper before falling onto a rush-hour Manhattan street as terrified commuters ran for their lives.
Fellow construction worker, Richard Paz, told DailyMail.com that a cable hauling wet concrete up to the top of the building site overheated just before the fire.
The crane operator noticed that the mechanics had stopped working, he said, because a computer system shut it down when the cable started burning out.
It was at this point the worker realized there was an issue and got out of the cab.
Once it got to a point where he couldn’t extinguish the flames himself, he fled.
Fluid from the engine compartment leaked onto a heated metal plate, which sparked a flame and caused the crane to collapse on to an opposite residential skyscraper near Hudson Yards.
Pictured: The crane on fire. The fire heated up the cable of the crane, which was holding 16-tonnes of concrete, causing it to snap and trigger the collapse, FDNY deputy commissioner explained
A burning Manhattan construction crane is pictured collapsing and striking the side of a residential skyscraper on 10th Avenue, sending debris spraying onto the sidewalk below
The crane is seen collapsed on the street following the ordeal on Wednesday morning
The cause of the flaming crane cab was reported by New York Daily News – who also said that the equipment’s permits and inspections were all up to date.
The blazing crane was attached to a luxury 47 story apartment building under construction at 550 10th Avenue, with the 16-tonnes of concrete it was carrying also smashed onto the street below.
It was seen striking the side of the 55-floor 555 10th Avenue apartment building opposite.
Terrifying video footage shot Wednesday morning showed the crane collapse and strike a glass residential skyscraper opposite – while people staying in nearby hotels and apartment blocks were quickly evacuated.
People covered in blood were stretchered into ambulances as screams rung out from construction workers and commuters on ground level, eyewitnesses said.
Over 200 firefighters rushed up to a nearby balcony and desperately battled the inferno – which blazed 500 feet above the Manhattan skyline this morning.
Disturbing photos obtained by Dailymail.com show the ruined terrace of the luxury New York City apartment tower which was struck by the burning construction crane.
Shattered glass littered the ground and metal beams were strewn across the roof of 555 10th Avenue near Hudson.
Planters filled with ornamental grass were also destroyed, with the soil once contained within them scattered across the luxurious deck of the building.
Much of its glass safety railing was also wrecked by the falling crane, offering a vertigo-inducing new vista for anyone working on the clean-up scene.
Several exterior windows of the tower were also smashed, although a building spokesperson said no-one inside had been injured.
Residents were evacuated and were not allowed back in until after 4pm ET.
The crane is owned by New Jersey-based Lomma, whose late founder James Lomma was ordered to pay $96 million to two construction workers killed when another of his cranes collapsed in 2008.
DailyMail.com has contacted Lomma Corp. for a comment on Wednesday’s collapse.
Firefighters are seen spraying water on the crane in a bid to stop the fire
The FDNY posted an image of their firefighters tackling the blaze on Wednesday morning
A worker said the clean up is likely to go into the night.
A large yellow crane to remove the destroyed cement mixer, boom and crane was waiting at the police line.
One worker said: ‘Our guys can’t remove the crane without the all clear.
‘It will likely take till tonight to clear the road and then we’ll remove the crane.
‘I can’t be sure how long that will take.’
He added that most of the debris which exploded out of the cement bucket were rocks placed into the cement to enable the curing process.
Residents and workers in the area were seen running for their lives as the fiery crane blazed in the sky above them.
The dramatic incident sent debris spraying onto the streets – injuring multiple people below – while storefronts had their glass shattered.
The fire heated up the cable of the crane, which was holding 16-tonnes of concrete, causing it to snap and trigger the collapse, FDNY deputy commissioner explained.
Residents living with a view of the scene told DailyMail.com they heard screams from the construction workers at around 7.15am.
The fire then took hold and the top half of the crane collapsed at around 7:30am.
It broke off and smashed into 555 Ten, an apartment building across the street, then hit the ground.
The resident told DailyMail.com: ‘We saw stretchers and ambulances so there are injuries on the ground. The stores under have also had all their windows broken.
‘We’ve now been evacuated from our building.’
The Fire Department New York confirmed in a statement: ‘FDNY units are currently operating at a crane collapse and fire at 550 Tenth Avenue in Manhattan.’