- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Survivors of a crane crash that killed seven people gathered with neighbors and elected officials to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly construction accident.

“We’re happy to be alive, and praise God we’re here,” said John Gallego, the last person who was pulled from the rubble of the March 15, 2008 crane collapse on Manhattan’s East Side.

Gallego and survivor Juan Perez were both leaning heavily on canes Sunday.

“I’ve had five surgeries on my legs,” Gallego said. “It’s a bad situation for us.”

The crane collapsed as it was being “jumped,” or lengthened, during the construction of a high-rise apartment building.

Three separate investigations blamed faulty rigging of an 11,000-pound crane part in the collapse. Workers attached the wrong number and type of protective slings to the steel brace meant to attach the crane to the tower under construction; the brace fell and knocked out lower attachments to the building, causing the crane to topple into the quiet residential neighborhood near the United Nations.

A four-story town house was demolished, more than a dozen other buildings were damaged and six construction workers and a tourist in town for St. Patrick’s Day weekend were killed.

The city’s buildings commissioner resigned two months after the accident, and the city passed dozens of new rules overseeing construction and cranes.

“A year later I can now tell you that because we spoke up, because we had enough, and because we were not going to tolerate the senseless loss of life in this borough, we came together and demanded action from the city,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “We went from having the weakest safety protocols to the most stringent safety protocols in the nation.”

The 100 people who gathered to mark the anniversary observed a moment of silence for the seven victims.

“We stand here today to commemorate the lives that were lost,” said John LaGreco, who owned Fubar, a bar that was on the ground floor of the destroyed town house. “Although we do miss our tavern, our hearts and prayers go out to the people whose lives have been changed forever because of this horrific tragedy.”

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