PHILADELPHIA — A tall construction lift toppled over and struck a downtown Philadelphia apartment building Monday, killing a construction worker who fell 125 feet.
Investigators want to know whether James Wilson, 40, of Glassboro, N.J., was strapped into the bucket of the boom lift as he worked on a church roof. He may have free-fallen to the ground, they said.
"It doesn't appear that he was secured properly. We would expect that he was tethered in," Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. "We're trying to find out if that's the case."
The vehicle apparently tipped over when it rolled over a sidewalk grate, causing the grate to give way, Ayers said.
Crane accidents kill up to 82 construction workers each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The figure would likely not include the kind of lift involved in the fatality Monday, according to Celeste Monforton, who studies worker safety as an assistant professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health.
Wilson was pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital shortly after 1:30 p.m.
The lift struck the corner of a five-story apartment building and knocked down a traffic pole and traffic light before crashing into two parked vehicles on the street.
Three people in cars were treated for minor injuries from falling debris, including a woman in her 70s who suffered a broken arm. The 13-unit apartment complex was evacuated, and no one was injured. No one was inside the top-floor corner apartment that suffered the most damage.
"I just heard a really loud crash, and looked out my window and saw the two cars — a car and a truck — smashed in," said tenant Stephanie Watts, 22, who was at home a floor below the damaged unit.