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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More on Crane Collapse

posted by on November 29 at 13:35 PM

Yesterday the PI reluctantly admitted that Warren Taylor Yeakey, the man operating a crane that collapsed in Bellevue, wasn’t on drugs at the time of the accident. Still, the PI felt certain that Yeakey, what with his history of substance abuse (unlike a certain PI columnist I could name), must be to be blame somehow. So the same PI story that cleared Yeakey of substance abuse speculated at length about other stuff Yeakey could have done or failed to do that would cause the crane to collapse, killing one man and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.

Investigators are also looking into whether the crane was allowed to “weathervane,” or swing freely, during windstorms before the collapse. A failure to do so by the crane operator would have put more stress on the massive structure, experts say…

“If the crane is not in weathervane mode, the torque from the wind load on the boom can contribute, at least in part, to failure,” said Frank Shih, a mechanical engineering professor at Seattle University. [The Italics are mine.]

Who was the crane operator? Why, Yeakey, of course. He was the crane operator, singular, the only person up there operating that crane, the only crane operator named in reports about the accident. If the crane operator, singular, neglected to put that crane in weathervane mode at the end of the day, then surely the crane operator, singular, caused the collapse.

Well guess what? Yeakey wasn’t the only person that operated that crane—a crane that, according to photographic evidence, was leaning dangerously to one side back in October. From today’s Seattle Times:

The construction crane that collapsed in downtown Bellevue Nov. 16 appeared to be leaning in a photograph taken more than a month before the deadly accident….

The photograph is one reason investigators are questioning several crane operators who worked at the site to determine whether they unlocked the crane’s horizontal arm during high winds the week before the collapse. The practice, known as “weathervaning,” is required during strong winds to allow the arm to swing freely, relieving pressure on the crane, said the source familiar with the investigation.

Among the operators who has been questioned is Warren Taylor Yeakey, 34, of Tacoma, who was in the crane’s cab when it collapsed. He suffered minor injuries.

So Yeakey was not only sober the day of the collapse, he’s also just one of several people that operated the crane. And the crane appears to have already been leaning dangerously to one side—two to three feet at the top, when the max allowed for a crane its height is 5 1/4 inches—more than a month before Yeakey was unlucky enough to show up for his shift on November 16. (You can see a picture of the crane here.)

But if you read only the PI—something I’m going to have to give up—you wouldn’t know that Yeakey was only one of several men that operated the crane. We also don’t know when the PI will drop its drug-hysteria inspired innuendo campaign against Yeakey or when the PI will apologize to him.

I hope Yeakey has a good lawyer and I hope he sues the fuck out of the PI.

RSS icon Comments


it's pretty incredible -- thanks for slogging about this. i wouldn't have known about it otherwise

Posted by charles | November 29, 2006 1:59 PM

Take a wander over to Sound Politics. Matt Rosenberg just wrote something very flattering about you, something about wishing you'd been aborted...

Posted by thehim | November 29, 2006 2:04 PM

Suing, it's the American thing to do.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 29, 2006 2:20 PM

Yeah, thanks Dan. I wouldn't have known about this either.

I'm thankful for Dan and people like Dan. More Dans. He's the mans. He takes solid stands.

Will, wait, what would you have Yeakey do? Just take it? What would YOU do, if this were you? Besides make a smart ass cute little remark?

Posted by Trent Moorman | November 29, 2006 2:32 PM

What is the PI trying to cover up? Was there some sort of mechanical failure that no one wants to talk about? Who are they protecting?

Posted by Gomez | November 29, 2006 2:39 PM

Is the PI carrying water for BIAW given the total lack of regulation of cranes in this state?

Posted by golob | November 29, 2006 2:50 PM

I would suspect that they will change their stance when it is no longer a paper owned by The Hearst Corp.

Posted by PHENICS | November 29, 2006 2:55 PM

I'm no expert, but the tilting in that photo looks like it might be lens distortion. Especially with wide-angle lenses, parallel lines tend to bow outward at the center of the image and then converge as they reach the edges.

It's also possible that it's the white crane that's tilting, not the yellow one.

Posted by Mattymatt | November 29, 2006 3:19 PM

I don't think the P-I is "protecting" anyone. They rushed to a judgement once already; you want them to rush some more? Wait for the investigation. There are about six different companies involved here; the contractor, the owner of the crane, the erector of the crane, and the operator of the crane are all separate companies.

Posted by Fnarf | November 29, 2006 3:27 PM

Didn't you stop reading the Times because of the estate tax? If you stop reading the PI because of the crane, how will you know what's going on in Seattle? Reading the Stranger Calendar page?

And, yeah, thanks for following this one. The PI should not be let off the hook for that first huge headline about the "history of drug use" or the story that went with it. Probably need to keep reading both papers though, if only to rant against them.

Posted by elenchos | November 29, 2006 3:47 PM

I took a look at the pic in Photoshop to check out your idea. The white crane is indeed true (no question there). Comparing other vertical lines in the picture that *should* be true, (edges of buildings, telephone poles) they are. The biggest tilt is the building to the far right in the picture- which makes sense because of the lens distortion you mentioned. The yellow crane, being in the (near) center of the frame, should not be distorted. After doing some highschool math (needed a little help from google to remember the formulas!) it looks like the yellow crane was tilting 5 degrees from the perspective in that pic.

Posted by Investigatory Journalist | November 29, 2006 3:50 PM

I agree with #11.

I have a substantial knowledge of photography. Generally, even a super wide angle lens is relatively distortion free in the center. They don't state what camera/lens was used for this photo, but it doesn't appear to be using an especially wide lens. All of the angles look pretty straight, with only a slight pyramiding effect at the edges (which is caused more from pointing the camera at a slight downward angle, not from a wide-angle lens).

If you look carefully, you can see that the white crane and yellow crane do NOT line up. At the bottom of the yellow crane, the two almost merge, while at the top, there is a noticeable gap. Given that they are almost one behind the other, perspective-wise, the two cranes should line up, regardless of the lens or the camera angle.

No question about it. One of the cranes is tilted slightly. I wouldn't swear to which one, or whether or not it is tilted beyond its design tolerance (out of my field), but one is definitely tilted.

Posted by SDA in SEA | November 29, 2006 5:17 PM

If slandering the crane operator was just one of the many foul things the PI had done in the past year, hell the past month, I could cope with them. It seems that the PI management is cool with printing half truths and accusations without following up with apologies or correction on a regular basis. After a while, someone needs to call them on their bullshit and if it is the crane operator who sues their asses and gets them to cease with their news generating stories, then hooray for him.

Posted by Jenny | November 29, 2006 11:11 PM

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