Scaffolding collapse probed in Windy City fatalities

March 11, 2002 |

A 1,000-pound scaffold in place to allow workers to clean and caulk the curtain wall on the John Hancock Center in Chicago broke loose from the 42nd floor Saturday in high winds, killing three women in cars below. Several more were hospitalized.

According to officials, the scaffolding was 100 feet long and 6 feet wide. It broke 66 windows before falling to the street in pieces. Owned by Beeche Systems Corp. of Scotia, N.Y., it was being operated by Denver-based AMS Architectural Technologies Inc., which has an office in Chicago.

Kristen Lobbins-Cabanban, a spokesperson for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings, said inspectors from the department are  analyzing the scaffolding system as part of the investigation. 'We are still trying to get confirmation of where it was parked,' Lobbins-Cabanban said Monday afternoon. City officials also are combing the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards to determine what ANSI instructs operators to do in parking their systems, especially during inclement weather. She expects the city to know more on Wednesday or Thursday.

Owner Shorenstein Co., San Francisco, issued a statement Sunday says the firm 'was shocked and saddened by the tragic accident and loss of life that occurred outside the John Hancock Center.' The news release said, 'Damage to the building appears to be restricted to the office portion, primarily floors 28, 38, 39, 40 and 41.' Besides the damage to the windows, some walls and ceilings were also harmed.

AMS in Denver refused comment. A call to the Chicago office number listed on its Web site was answered with a recorded message that the number had been disconnected.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Calumet City also is investigating the incident.

- Morgan Luciana Danner


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