Three dead in Boston scaffolding collapse
By Glen Johnson, Associated Press Writer | April 3, 2006
BOSTON --A 20,000-pound construction platform collapsed and then crashed down 13 stories onto a busy downtown street Monday, killing three people and crushing cars stalled in midday traffic.
The collapse occurred about 1:20 p.m. on Boylston Street, which runs along the south side of Boston Common.
Witnesses said there was a terrifying rumble then crash of the platform lift system, which was set up atop a second building next to a 14-story building owned by Emerson College. The platform and scaffolding, which had been used to install a stone facade, were being dismantled around the 13th story when the collapse happened, said acting Fire Commissioner Kevin MacCurtain.
Boston police identified the dead as the driver of the car, Michael Tsan Ty, 28, of Boston's Roslindale neighborhood; and two construction workers, Robert E. Beane, 41, of Baldwinville; and Romildo Silva, 27, of Somerville.
Two other people were taken to Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital where are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called to inspect the remaining scaffolding and assist in the investigation, said Boston Police Superintendent Robert Dunford.
John D. Macomber, president and CEO of Macomber Builders, the lead contractor hired by Emerson, said at a news conference the dead were believed to be two construction workers employed by subcontractor Bostonian Masonry and a passer-by.
He said the company was still investigating the accident.
"It looks as though one of the moving, movable scaffoldings fell off the side of the building out toward Boylston Street and down. We don't know why that happened yet. They're tied in laterally very well," Macomber said.
He said the procedure was a "typically very safe way to work" and that there was an "extensive safety program inside the company."
Macomber Builders has been cited by OSHA more than 10 times since 2004 including more than five citations for "serious" scaffolding or fall protection violations. OSHA defines a violation as serious if "there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard."
"Generally OSHA is very pleased with us and the other leading contractors in Boston," Macomber said at the news conference. "We try very carefully to keep safe jobs. Typically we're held up as a model of safety."
He did not comment directly on any of the company's previous violations.
Macomber, based in South Boston, has been in business for more than 100 years and helped build Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace, according to the company's Web site, which says it has. an employee safety program and a safety director.
"I had just walked through the spot where it fell when I heard this roar," said Dan Rofsky, 19, an Emerson freshman from New Jersey. "To turn around, after hearing this crash 30 feet away," he added, pausing to collect himself, "I just saw this cloud of dust and smoke."
Death came crashing down
Scaffold's fall kills 3 and ties up downtown
By Suzanne Smalley and Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | April 4, 2006
A three-ton construction scaffold plunged yesterday from a building onto busy downtown Boylston Street, killing two construction workers and a young doctor who was driving by.
The scaffold had been affixed near the top of a 14-story Emerson College dormitory under construction and was being dismantled when it came loose, hit an adjacent building, then crashed seven stories to the street. State and federal investigators and Boston police are still investigating the cause, authorities said.
The scaffold and building debris thundered to the ground just after 1:20 p.m. Screams came from the dust cloud that enveloped the block as passersby rushed to a crushed gray Honda sedan. Soon, there were three bodies under white tarps lying on the street amid twisted steel and scattered piles of debris and glass, witnesses said. The lone horn from a demolished car droned as rescue workers rushed to the scene.
''I saw it crash to the ground, and all of a sudden it was like 9/11, and I saw people run to the car, at least 10 men, and try to pull the crane off," said ironworker Mark Elliot. ''I saw a body next to the crane. And I saw that the . . . car was crushed with people inside."
The accident, without precedent in recent Boston history, took the lives of three people and shut down part of a city teeming with construction sites and hulking equipment.
Boston police identified the dead motorist as Michael Tsan Ty, 28, of Roslindale, and the two construction workers as Robert E. Beane, 41, of Baldwinville and Romildo Silva, 27, of Somerville.
Two other victims were transported to the Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital, where they are being treated for injuries that are not life-threatening.
''A guy goes off to work, and something like this happens," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, as he visited the accident site yesterday. ''It's very difficult."
Others narrowly escaped the same fate.
''The platform came within 6 inches of my head," said John Hynes, 48, who sat in his BMW as debris rained on it. ''It's my lucky day. I'm still standing." Hynes, a real estate developer, is a grandson of former Boston Mayor John B. Hynes.
The owner of Macomber Builders, which ran the Emerson project, said the two dead workers were employed by a subcontractor, Bostonian Masonry of East Walpole. The accident's cause had not been determined, said John Macomber, the firm's owner and chief executive officer.
''We don't really know what happened yet, and we'll work really hard to try and find that out," he said. ''But right now we're mostly thinking about these families, and our prayers are with the people who were killed and injured today."
He said that the scaffold ''fell off the side of the building out towards Boylston Street and down," but he did not know why. He said such scaffoldings are widely used in construction projects and are generally considered safe.
The South Boston-based firm has had a string of federal workplace violations stretching back more than a decade, some involving scaffolding. Bostonian Masonry also has a record of workplace safety violations. Investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inquiry yesterday into the incident, as well as a safety review of the rest of the Emerson dormitory project.
Emerson's Piano Row Residence Hall and Campus Center at 150 Boylston St. is scheduled to open this fall, with plans to house 560 students and provide meeting places for campus clubs. It will also contain a full-size indoor basketball court.
The scaffolding, called a hydraulic mast-climbing work platform, had been used by workers from Bostonian Masonry to apply stonework to the exterior of the building, authorities said. At least one of the dead workers had completed a specialized training course in dismantling the scaffold, said Armand Rainville, chief executive officer of Fraco Products Ltd., the Montreal-based maker of the scaffold. He said there has never been a similar accident with his firm's scaffolding products.
Emerson College canceled classes yesterday in two nearby campus buildings. The accident also tied up traffic downtown around the Boston Common and Downtown Crossing, the nexus of Boston's workday bustle. City officials urged businesses in the area to let employees out early to stagger the afternoon commute and asked those who drove to work to take public transportation home.
But throughout the afternoon, crowds gathered near the accident site, where dozens of people said they had witnessed and barely escaped the collapse.
James White, 39, of Dorchester, said he drove by seconds before the scaffold fell, missing his car by feet.
''All I heard was a crackling noise, and then I saw the scaffolding fall off the building," said White, who jumped from his car and ran to the crushed Honda. ''Both of the people that I seen, neither was talking. One of them had a lot more blood coming, and the other was unconscious."
One witness, a 54-year-old Boston man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was sitting on a park bench on the Common when he heard a loud, metallic clanging noise. He looked toward Boylston Street and saw debris flying though the air.
''It came off all at once, and it was coming fast, believe me," he said. ''I thought it was part of the building coming down. It sounded like a two- or three-car accident, and it was echoing off all the buildings."
Some Emerson students saw the accident occur from the Walker Building at 120 Boylston St.
Dan Rofsky, 19, an Emerson freshman, had just walked down Boylston when he heard a thunderous crash. ''I couldn't see above the smoke cloud," he said.
''I had this crazy thought of mortality" just after it happened, he said. ''I could have died."
Doctor from Atherton killed in freak accident
By S.L. Wykes
A highly honored young doctor who grew up in Atherton was killed Monday afternoon in Boston when a 10-ton construction scaffolding fell 13 stories to the ground and crushed his car.
Michael Tsan Ty, 28, was driving along downtown's Boylston Street, where an Emerson College campus center was nearing completion. The scaffolding was being dismantled when it fell, Boston fire officials said.
Two construction workers also were killed and two others taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.
Ty was a 1999 Phi Beta Kappa graduate in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University. He earned his medical degree in 2004 from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences Technology.
He was wearing his hospital scrubs when he died, officials said. The Boston Globe reported him to be a doctor at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, but hospital officials would not confirm that today.
Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials are investigating the accident.
Funeral arrangements are pending.