On June 25, 2003 at approximately 11:30 a.m. the Otsego County Fire Department located in Gaylord, Michigan was dispatched to a reported "Crane Collapse" with a possible fuel spill near Dickerson and Milbocker Roads. The initial dispatch information indicated that there were no injuries at the accident site.
Station 2 responded with the Chief and Engine 206. Upon arrival, units found a 120-ton boom crane resting on the rear outriggers and the drivers cab 50 feet in the air.
The fire department established a fall zone with a 100 foot radius to prevent persons from being injured should the crane tip laterally. Additional cranes were brought in to stabilize the vehicle until it could be lowered using a 250-ton crane, which had to travel 200 miles from Grand Rapids.
The crane was being used to lower a 14x48 freeway billboard sign, and then to remove and replace one section of the billboard post. The load was well within the capabilities of the crane. A crew of two was on a platform from a second boom truck removing the bolts from the billboard/post connection. The larger crane was holding the load of the sign.
As soon as the last bolt was removed from the post, a large gust of wind struck the sign. The crane operator regained control of the sign when a second gust struck the sign. This second gust carried the sign outside of the safe operating limits of the crane. It was extended 100 feet above the ground. As the crane started to tip, the crane operator immediately swung the load away from the other workers at the site. This action prevented any of the other workers from being injured. The only injury reported, was to the crane operator, who was struck in the face by an object inside the boom operators cab, which came loose during this wild ride. The injured employee, declined treatment or transport to the hospital.
The 120-ton crane and billboard landed on top of the second boom/platform truck. The men in the platform descended to approximately 30 feet and then transferred to a ladder on the billboard post. The crane, platform truck and billboard have been declared a total loss. Due to the use of proper safety harnesses and the quick action of those involved, at least four lives were saved.
Due to the unusual sight, motorists on I-75 were seen to stop, then back-up, to take pictures of the crane with its cab 50 feet in the air.