- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

A 180-foot construction crane collapsed and crushed the roofs of seven town houses yesterday in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

Nobody was inside the homes when the crane fell at about 8:20 a.m. in the 2300 block of Huntington Station Court, the Fairfax County fire department said.

The only reported injury was the crane operator, who had a broken leg and was taken by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Lt. Jeff Trice, a department spokesman, said the crane was part of a project building condominiums at the Midtown Alexandria Station community and that it fell through the roofs of a row of occupied town houses.

Investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of the accident, he said.

The tower crane was being operated by the SMC Co., a subcontractor for general contractor Bovis Lend Lease Holdings Inc., said Mary Costello, vice president of corporate affairs for Bovis.

She said a 369-unit condominium building and a six-level, above-ground parking structure was under construction at the site.

The upscale community is off Huntington Avenue next to the Huntington Metro station. One of the town houses sold in August for more than $500,000, according to Fairfax County property records.

“I just ran out to get a newspaper and a cup of coffee,” said Joe Wiche, who lives in one of the damaged homes. “When I came back a few minutes later, they had the whole area blocked off.”

He said displaced residents were being put up in hotels and will not know for a couple of days when they can return to their homes.

Robert Broadus, 35, who lives in the community, said he heard a loud noise, looked out the window and saw the crane operator sprawled on the ground. Then he rushed to the accident scene.

“I ran from house to house and banged on doors.” he said. “It looked like no one was home. … That was a miracle.”

He said a similar crane is still at the site and that he would like some assurance about its safety.

Mrs. Costello said Bovis and SMC are working with Fairfax fire and rescue officials and cooperating with Virginia’s office of Occupational Safety and Health to determine the cause of the accident.

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