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Friday, December 8, 2006

Cracks, Not Crack

posted by on December 8 at 7:59 AM

Neglect, not currently clean-and-sober crane operators with distant histories of drug abuse, would appear to be behind our “rash of crane failures.” So says this morning’s P-I—which has still not issued an apology to Warren Yeakey, the man operating a crane in Bellevue at the time of its collapse. That accident killed one man, and it was a miracle that Yeakey survived. Noting Yeakey’s history of drug convictions—the last being in 2000—the P-I ramped up the drug hysterics and charged, tried, and convicted Yeakey in an infamous headline.

It seemed like an open-and-shut case. Yeakey had a record of drug convictions, and this headline two days after the accident made it clear who the P-I thought was at fault:

Operator in crane wreck has history of drug abuse

Yeakey took a drug test, was found to be clean. Then the P-I told us that the crane might have collapsed due to an ongoing operator error, and implied that Yeakey was the only operator of the crane. Yeakey, in fact, was one of several workers who had operated the crane that collapsed. Now it turns out—well, what do you know?—that the P-I may not be able to blame crane operators and crack pipes after all. From today’s story:

Cracks, loose welds, and sheared bolts aren’t common in tower cranes, but you’d never know it from a spate of alarming discoveries at construction sites in Bellevue and Redmond.

For four of the hulking cranes to develop serious safety problems over the past three weeks, experts say needed maintenance and inspections were likely being neglected.

“That sounds to me like people aren’t having their cranes inspected while they are on the ground in pieces,” said Ronald Brodek, owner of Brodek Crane Inspections Inc. in Arizona.

To the editors of the P-I: We’re still waiting on an apology to Warren Yeakey. Front page, above the fold, in the headline.

RSS icon Comments


Dan Savage,
Right on! Do not let go of this. You are correct. And this is important.

Posted by The Real LeBron James | December 8, 2006 8:26 AM

who better than the stranger to take a stand for responsible journalism.

Posted by pot, kettle | December 8, 2006 9:16 AM


Stop beating a dead horse. No daily newspaper would use a page one headline to run an apology. That space is generally reserved for, oh, things like the day's news.

The P-I should, however, use its editorial page to express regret for their crappy journalism in this case. And of course if they smear the crane operator again, then by all means attack. But in the meantime, your point has been made.

Posted by Joe M | December 8, 2006 9:20 AM

The whole issue sucks ass. In my corner of the universe, the outrage is with the state and the industry. I don't really care about deregulation or how self-regulating industries are good Seattle, mom, America, and apple pie. The laissez-faire trickle down free market economy is what we got, fine I give people that, it is good for pizza parlors and the stock market, but damn it, OSHA? For something that can kill me or you *snap* just like that? Hospital operating rooms aren't out of bounds for state inspectors, but the construction industry is?

What pisses me off is that these yahoos... yes, the operators, the foreman, the boss, the owner of the crane, the unions, BIAW, every one of them, are the only ones who can say... "yup, that there crack, that shouldn't be there". Nobody else. Not the feds, not the state, no one. Only the construction industry is able to determine what is an unsafe crane, and ultimately shut down a construction site. (you realize I am speaking of the entire State of Washington, right?)

And the problem with that? The construction industry doesn't make money when cranes sit around collecting dust... the industry has an interest in keeping construction sites open, not shut down. The free-market system demands it.

All those cranes in Bellevue with cracks... they sat outside in the exact same weather as Seattle, Everett, Olympia, Tacoma, etc etc... (and you do remember November of aught six, the wettest & coldest month EVER?) and only those couple of cranes in Bellevue have weather cracks which require that work stop for repairs? huh? The government is all over those e-coli greens, but it is powerless to inspect, much less stop, a construction site from unsafe practices.

OH, and if you are thinking... this wouldn't be an issue if that one crane hadn't fallen over... you are right, but what is not talked about in the republican-influenced media too loudly is that the only people we have telling us it won't happen again are the same folks who said they would regulate themselves in the first place so this sort of thing wouldn't happen 100% of the time. Well, they lied about keeping the 100%, what else are they lying about? Just hoping the work finishes as scheduled, nothing falls over, and the cracks in the crane will be fixed on the down-low before the next job starts, is most likely. Since no one is or can really watch them that closely anyways.

Posted by Phenics | December 8, 2006 10:15 AM

The P-I isn't going to run a retraction on page one, but they COULD and SHOULD do one of their human interest stories about Mr. Yeakey, and use this episode AND THEIR BAD BEHAVIOR as an object lesson in the kind of crap that recovering addicts have to put up with, and how difficult that makes reintegrating into society. Blame first, ask questions later.

Posted by Fnarf | December 8, 2006 11:22 AM

As an Engineer, I was disgusted by the first headlines; and remain so, as the investigation into very real mechanical inspection problems evolves.

Thanks for speaking out, as The Stranger does, on this sadly botched journalistic issue.

An appology to all of us, (and especially the Operator) is definitely in order.

Posted by Hal Fonts | December 15, 2006 11:40 AM

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