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Arnold M. Knightly

Crane buckles at CityCenter

16 June 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- An unstable construction crane at the $9.2 billion CityCenter shut down traffic on a one-third-mile stretch of the Strip and stalled work on a portion of the 76-acre site for nearly 11/2 hours Friday afternoon.

The latest construction mishap at the Strip job site did not result in any injuries, but it occurred at the same time that state and federal safety officials are investigating a string of construction-related accidents that have killed six workers on the CityCenter site in the past 16 months.

The 180-foot-tall crawler crane was being closed down for the day around 12:45 p.m. when the crane operator heard a loud, grinding metal-on-metal sound.

According to a witness at the scene, the large, red crane, which is less than 50 feet from the Strip-side construction wall, began swaying back and forth and then the horizontal boom tilted awkwardly toward the ground.

"The metal supports for the crane span malfunctioned," said MGM Mirage spokeswoman Yvette Monet, whose company is building the massive development.

The exact source of the sound was not known and Perini Building Co., the general contractor on the project, is investigating the incident, according to Monet.

Local Perini officials declined to comment on Friday's incident, referring all questions to the company's headquarters in Framingham, Mass. A call to the Massachusetts office was not returned by press time.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials were on the job site Friday morning, but it is not known if any were present during the incident, according to Tom Czehowski, chief administrative officer for Nevada OSHA.

Federal and state OSHA officials are conducting a safety assessment of the job site.

Southbound traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard was diverted at first, but northbound traffic was diverted about 15 minutes later until the crane was folded so it would not collapse onto the street or job site. The Strip was reopened to traffic about 2:30 p.m.

Work was halted on "approximately one-eighth of the site," while the crane was rotated and folded, Monet said.

Workers in that area were able to return to work at that time too, she said.

"All of our safety procedures were followed to the letter to ensure the safety of everyone who was within the vicinity of the site," Monet said. "All the procedures worked."

Union workers shut down the CityCenter and Cosmpolitan projects for 24 hours earlier this month to force Perini to institute several safety measures the Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council said were needed, including offering safety training to all workers and allowing union and safety officials on the job sites at all times.

Perini is the general contractor for both projects.