One Dead after Crane Part Falls onto Fort Lauderdale, FL, Bridge

April 5, 2024
The construction worker who fell with the piece of the crane was killed while a driver was injured.

Angie DiMichele

South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Mark Cerezin was driving his Tesla on the Southeast Third Avenue bridge over the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale about 4:30 p.m. Thursday when he felt as if “something was coming.”

He slammed on his brakes, and “this big, huge, massive piece of blue steel” fell onto his car, “bounced” off the bridge, into the air and landed on another car to his right, he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The large piece of steel that plummeted from several hundred feet in the air was part of a tower construction crane that fell onto the bridge during rush hour, killing a construction worker and rendering the bridge inoperable to boats and cars indefinitely.

Workers at the building were in the process of “stepping the crane,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chief Stephen Gollan said at an evening news conference, where they add sections to the tower crane to elevate it as the under-construction building grows taller.

Gollan said a platform that held equipment failed, sending the items from the platform down onto the bridge. The crane itself did not experience the failure, he said.

The construction worker who died “had fallen with the load off of the side of the building,” Gollan said.

Cerezin got out of his car and was “in a state of shock,” along with everyone else who was at the scene, he said. The harrowing experience Thursday made Cerezin question the safety of the high-rise construction projects that are so often ongoing, and quickly.

“… Who is inspecting these buildings?” he said. “Are there enough inspections relative to the amount of buildings that are out there?”

“I understand that there was a fatality, and I of course feel bad for that family, for that person and that family who has to go through that,” he said. “I’m just grateful to be able to go home to my wife and to my friends.”

As of Thursday evening, officials have not said which building the crane was helping to construct.

A resident of a nearby condominium told the Sun Sentinel the crane was working on the building located at 333 N. New River Drive East, the site of what will be the Gables Riverwalk apartment building.

Photos show KAST Construction signs on the property, which has offices in West Palm Beach, Coral Gables and Tampa, according to the company’s website.

The construction company’s southeast Florida division manager could not be reached by phone after business hours Thursday.

Two cars could be seen on the drawbridge, one of which was Cerezin’s Tesla. Photos showed the front of the Tesla severely smashed.

The piece of the crane landed on top of a van, crushing the passenger side of it. The driver’s side appeared to be relatively undamaged, and photos showed the driver’s door open.

Traffic was moving in both north and south lanes of the drawbridge when the portion fell down, Gollan said. Three people in total were injured, but only two of them were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, Gollan said.

The two who were hospitalized were in stable condition, one with only minor injuries, Gollan said. The third person who was injured refused to be taken to the hospital.

Caroline Kempska, who lives on the 15th floor of a condominium that overlooks the bridge, said she was sitting on her couch when she heard “an extremely, exaggeratedly loud boom” and a woman screaming and looked out her window.

She saw the piece of the crane on top of the van, the smashed Tesla, traffic at a standstill on the bridge and people running. She saw construction workers running from the bottom of the building’s work site, covering their faces and mouths “in complete shock,” she said.

It was difficult to grasp what it was she was looking at, Kempska said. An officer was on scene quickly and stopped traffic. On Thursday night, she called it a “miracle” that no drivers were severely injured or killed on the bridge, where she said there was a typical amount of traffic for the time and day.

“The passenger side is gone,” Kempska said of the van where the crane landed. “The only thing salvaged in that car is the driver’s seat.”

The crane’s fall caused a hole in the drawbridge, Gollan said. The drawbridge is closed to all car and boat traffic until officials can determine if it is structurally safe. It is unclear when it will reopen, Gollan said.

The Florida Department of Transportation is investigating, along with Fort Lauderdale Police. The incident did not affect any other buildings surrounding the one under construction, and  they “are completely safe,” Gollan said.

Some of the busiest traffic hours in downtown Fort Lauderdale are from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Gollan said, noting “this could have been a whole lot worse” with the amount of traffic usually seen in the area. Photos showed a school bus near where the crane fell; it’s unclear if it was carrying students.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials were on the way to the scene shortly before 6 p.m. U.S. Coast Guard officials also will respond, Gollan said.

In response to an email Thursday evening, an OSHA spokesperson did not provide information about the construction site or the companies overseeing the operations.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bill Schultz said his department will investigate the death of the worker.

“Any accident like this is tragic, any loss of life is tragic … We are lucky that there were not more injuries or fatalities,” Schultz said.

Mayor Dean Trantalis did not return a voicemail Thursday evening.

As of Thursday night, Kempska said the Tesla, van and piece of the crane remained untouched on the bridge.

This is a developing story, so check back for updates. Click here to have breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.

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