303 E 51st Street Tower Crane Failure
New York City, NY - March 15, 2008
Sean H Felton, BAE, Penn State 2013


In the early afternoon (around 12:30 P.M.) on March 15, 2008, the tower crane at 303 E 51st street fell backwards, causing damage to buildings as far as two blocks away and killing 7 people in crowded Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Subsequent investigations led to indictments of several people, including the project owner, the contractor, the crane owner, the crane rigger, and a DOB inspector on counts of manslaughter, negligence, and fraud. Additionally, OSHA fined the construction team over $300,000 for other safety violations on the job site. While this project helped expose corruption within NYC DOB, however, the collapse originated from the failure of nylon straps that were temporarily supporting a piece of the crane's lateral stabilization system while it was being shored to the building.

The Crane


Investigation & Cause of Failure


Other Tower Crane Collapses



(2009) '51st Street Crane Investigation.' New York City Department of Buildings. New York, NY, March 4, 2009. Print. <http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/pdf/51streetcraneinvestigation_all.pdf>
  • Investigative report published by ARUP & Partners for the New York City Department of Buildings.

(2008) 'OSHA Citations Issued in Connection with Fatal NYC Crane Collapse.' OSHA. Washington, D.C., September 15, 2008. Press Release. <http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=16601>
  • Summarizes and justifies fines in response to collapse.

Eligon, John (2010). 'Rigging Contractor is Acquitted in the Collapse of a Crane.' The New York Times. New York, NY, July 22, 2010. Print. <www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/nyregion/23crane.html>
  • Discusses outcome of case against William Rapetti.

Neuman, William (2008). 'Failure of Strap is Suspected in Crane Collapse.' The New York Times. New York, NY, March 18, 2008. Print. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/nyregion/18crane.html>
  • Summarizes collapse, damages, and infers cause of collapse.

Neuman, William and Hartocollis, Anemona (2008). 'Inspector is Charged with Filing False Report before Crane Collapse.' The New York Times. New York, NY, March 21, 2008. Print. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/nyregion/21crane.html>
  • Summarizes case against Edward Marquette.

Peraza, David B. (P.E.) and Travis, Jeffery, A. (P.E., S.E.) (2009). 'Crane Safety: An Industry in Flux.' ASCE Forensic Engineering Congress, 2009. Print.<http://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/41082(362)57>
  • Compares and discusses several crane collapses.

Russo, Charles J. (P.E.) and Puchek, Elizabeth A (2009). 'Anatomy of a Tower Crane Collapse: An Opportunity to Learn.' ASCE Forensic Engineering Congress, 2009. Print.<http://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/41082(362)58>
  • Investigates tower crane failure in Florida.

Spooner, John B. (2011). 'Dep't of Buildings v. Rapetti: Report and Recommendation.' City Law, 2011. Web.<http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cafses/11-374.pdf>
  • letter written by judge presiding on Rapetti case summarizing details of guilt and providing recommendations.