Crane Collapses at National Cathedral

Monday, Apr 16, 2012  |  Updated 9:47 AM EDT
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More stunning than the accident itself was the seemingly minimal damage caused by a 500-foot tall, 500-ton crane toppling over.

Pat Collins

More stunning than the accident itself was the seemingly minimal damage caused by a 500-foot tall, 500-ton crane toppling over.

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Raw Video: National Cathedral Crane Collapse

A crane collapses at the National Cathedral.
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A 500-foot crane performing cleanup work at the National Cathedral fell over Wednesday, damaging at least one building and several vehicles near the Cathedral.

The crane flipped over at 11 a.m. on Wednesday into a parking lot in between the Cathedral and several other buildings, avoiding any major damage or serious injury.

"I don't think you could have laid this crane down in this spot without hitting anything major, except where it landed," said D.C. Fire and EMS Battalion Chief John Donnelly.  "There are other buildings it would have hit in any other direction."

Richard Weinberg, a spokesperson for the Cathedral said the crane, positioned on the south side of the church, did hit an adjoining building.  The building, called the Herb House, had a portion of its roof ripped off.  Several cars were crushed in the fall.

Fire officials said the Cathedral's main structure was not damaged.

The operator of the crane was inside the cab at the base when the accident happened.  Authorities said immediately before it flipped, the crane's arm, extended approximately 350 feet, had just deposited material on the Cathedral roof.   While rotating, the equipment's balance upset, and the crane came crashing down into an area between the roadway and the church itself. 

The crane's operator was reportedly shaken, but able to walk away from the crash.  He was being evaluated by paramedics.  No other injuries were reported.

The crashed crane came down very close to the pathway used by students at National Cathedral School, who were in their first day of class Wednesday.

Early this week the giant crane removed debris from the around the cathedral's upper surfaces. Crews worked to clear broken stone from the Cathedral's upper faces so that scaffolding could be erected for the repair effort.

The August 23 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the Cathedral, breaking limestone ornamentation from the spires.

During the cleanup effort, the Cathedral has been closed to the public.  Plans were in place to open the Cathedral this weekend for September 11 memorial services.

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for more information.

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