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Liverpool crane hit by winds, inquest told

An inquest into last year’s fatal crane collapse at the Elysian Fields development in Liverpool has heard the jib was hit by 82 km per hour winds when it toppled.

Construction worker Zbigniew Roman Swirzynski was crushed by a 2.4-ton concrete counterweight when the crane toppled.

Mr Swirzynski was working on the ground at the Seel Street site when he was crushed by the counterweight block which normally sits behind a crane driver's cab.

The gust - which only lasted a second - was 10km per hour above maximum safe operating speeds and blew the arm of the crane upwards without setting off alarms in the crane's cab.

The alarm checks the wind speed every three seconds and had been changed to sound a warning when speeds reached more than 50 km per hour.

As a result of the high winds a steel rope connected to bars on the arm of the crane started to loop behind the driver's cab.

The inquest heard that a hook, which was carrying a load of concrete columns, on the end of the cable caught on part of the tower's lighting.

When the crane turned in an apparent attempt to free the hook the ropes jammed at the back of the cab and caused a "massive overload".
Health and Safety Executive principle specialist inspector for the north west Geoff Frackelton said the driver of the crane would not have been aware of the rope looping behind him.

He told the inquest: "It is a known phenomenon with tower cranes that the wind can cause them to move backwards.

"If the jib was near vertical it would be quite susceptible to wind."

Mr Frackelton said although the ropes and pulleys at the back of the driver's cab had a bar to prevent them "jumping" these had not prevented the rope looping.

He said: "It is seen even with this bar the rope can jump over the pulley and jam between each pulley."

The crane driver Barrie Walker told the inquest no alarms were sounding alerting him to dangerously strong winds at the time of the accident.

Mr Frackelton told the inquest: "The crane crashed down very violently and as it did it turned over and struck a partially constructed lift tower. As it did it turned upside down and landed on a building."

The inquest continues in front of a jury at Liverpool Coroner's Court.