Two people suffered injuries when a crane collapsed on a church in Fairfax County, but fast action by the crane operator kept a bad situation from getting worse.
Jim Perkins of B&M Tower Technologies set out with two employees Tuesday morning to check a cell phone tower inside a church steeple at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon.
“I felt the crane start to shake a little bit, looked down and saw the rear hydraulic compressing, which it shouldn’t do, and I just tried to get the guys as close to the roof as I could before I had to bail,” Perkins said.
As the truck holding the crane tipped on its side, the two men in the basket suspended from the crane could have gone flying toward the roof.
Preschool teacher Meredith Preston was watching 2- and 3-year-olds on the playground when she saw the crane begin to fall.
“I just happened to be watching when all of the sudden the bucket of the crane just slammed into the side of the steeple,” she said. “The steeple started shaking, so at that point we said we need to get them inside, so we ran in. So it was scary.”
Perkins’s quick reaction prevented what could have been disastrous, Fairfax County fire officials said.
“We are very fortunate that the operator of the crane recognized that there was a malfunction in one of the outriggers, apparently, and during the crane descent, he was able to get the basket down a little bit and help those guys not have to fall very far,” Battalion Chief Brian Brendel said.
Perkins said that once he jumped from the cab, he went to the roof to check on his workers. Both suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.
As for the preschool, the 69 children and 16 staff were evacuated and headed home early for the day.