Crane boom topples into channel

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CLOSE CALL FOR SOME BOATERS — A construction crane boom at the Naples Causeway toppled Tuesday morning, resulting in a portion of the rig landing in the channel between Long Lake and Brandy Pond. No injuries were reported. At press time, officials were unable to determine why the crane toppled or estimate damage to the machinery. The crane has since removed from the construction site. (De Busk Photo)

NAPLES - Roger Jenkins’ traditional, family boating experience included one of those “close call” moments.

Everyone was thankful that the boat was 120-feet away when it happened. Everyone was glad that the boat was not directly under the falling boom of a construction crane.

On Tuesday morning, when Jenkins saw two cables flapping loose in the air around a 150-foot crane parked on the Causeway, he pulled his boat into neutral and stopped from passing under the Naples Swing Bridge.

In the next several seconds, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and toddler-aged grandchildren witnessed the seemingly slow-motion bending of steel as the lofty boom headed to the ground, with its top splashing loudly before resting in the water.

The 22-foot Sea Ray was in Brandy Pond “about 20 feet away from going into Long Lake when I saw the crane – that had been stable and still the whole time we were on Brandy Pond – well, it pivoted. Not the normal way a crane would pivot. It twisted counter clockwise, it bent at the elbow,” Jenkins said.

“It started creaking and groaning. Then, ‘Splash!’ It fell into the water where we would have been,” he said.

Around 10:45 a.m. on the Naples Causeway, the boom of a crane leaned over and toppled into the channel on the Long Lake side.

There were no injuries.

In 20 minutes, crews removed the underwater portion of the boom, so it would not interfere with boat traffic, according to Craig Hurd, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) Resident Engineer for the Bay of Naples Bridge construction project.

By noon, the Songo River Queen II was able to pass through the swing bridge – per usual, Hurd said.

“The contractor’s crews cut (the top of the boom) with a torch and got it out of the channel in 20 minutes. They jumped on it really quick, and got it cleared out. It was amazingly quick,” he said.

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT — Boating enthusiasts had something different to talk about and see as they made their way from Long Lake toward Brandy Pond Tuesday when a construction crane collapsed. This photo was taken by Roger L. Jenkins, a professor of sur- gery at Tufts University School of Medicine, who witnessed the incident.

“I am not exactly sure what happened. I’m not going to speculate on that,” Hurd said.

“Nobody got hurt, and it’s all back to normal,” Hurd said.

Jeff Simpson, of Wyman & Simpson – the contractor for the MDOT project, spent Tuesday afternoon “trying to get a crane cleaned up” from the Causeway.

On Wednesday, Simpson said the boom had been removed from the job site, but he did not have a replacement cost estimate for the equipment. Nor did Simpson comment on what may have caused the boom to fall.

Witnesses reported that there was no one operating the crane, or in the cab at the time.

Owner of the Causeway Marina, Dan Allen, was standing in his driveway with a garden hose, when he observed something was wrong with the crane.

“I know a lot about cranes, and the way it was moving wasn’t right. I yelled, ‘The crane is falling!’ ” Allen said.

“She came down in slow motion,” he said.

“It just bent right up. The noise was not what you’d expect. I heard a thud, and there was a splash,” he said.

Allen said he was among those people who ran to the site to ascertain if anyone was hurt. He also dialed 9-1-1.

For the Jenkins’ family who were headed in the direction of a toppling steel boom, averting danger has become a good story.
It is one of those stories that can be told repeatedly: After lunch, after dinner, and for years to come.

Following unexpected lunch plans at Merced’s on Brandy Pond instead of one of the restaurants accessible from Long Lake, Jenkins and his family described the time-altered tumble.

“Once it actually fell, it was in slow motion until it fell into the water,” Roger Jenkins said.

“It was such a large structure to see falling. I think our brains slowed it down,” he said.

“But, it only took 30 seconds to fall,” he said.

His wife, Sue, said it happened more quickly than that.

“The whole thing took 10 seconds. It was too fast to be scared,” Sue said. “Later, we were all relieved.”

The family was “relieved because it fell there, and not on us,” their daughter Allison said.

“As soon as it fell, there was a huge splash,” Roger said, describing the cloud of dust that simultaneously arose from the disturbance.

His grandson - who had been trying to interject into the story the part about the crane splashing into the water, added, “It fell into the middle of the lake.”

When four-year-old Finn William Milutinovich realized he had the floor for a moment – and having finished his fries, he sat back to continue the story.

“I never saw anything in my life like that,” he said.

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