Chitose Suzuki  /  AP
Firefighters survey damage to a building in Boston on Monday after a construction crane and scaffolding collapsed, killing at least three people.
updated 4/3/2006 4:04:11 PM ET 2006-04-03T20:04:11

A construction crane and scaffolding collapsed on a downtown street Monday, killing at least three people near Emerson College and crushing several cars, fire officials said.

Witnesses described hearing a rumble and then the crash of scaffolding that kicked up a cloud of metal, dust and boards.

Construction crews had been using the crane and scaffolding to work on a 14-story college dormitory on Boylston Street, which runs along the south side of Boston Common. No students were injured, said Emerson Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen.

“It’s terrible,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who drove to the accident site after the collapse, around 1:30 p.m. “People just driving down the street in their cars, construction workers just doing their jobs — they never knew what hit them.”

John Hynes of Boston was driving up Boylston Street when he saw the scaffolding start to tumble just ahead of him.

“You could see it coming down and then I started rolling forward. It started to hit my car, and then I sped up,” said Hynes, grandson of former Boston Mayor John Hynes. He said his car and several others on the street were crushed.

The building — a dormitory and campus center — has been under construction for nearly two years and was scheduled to open for the fall semester, Rosen said.

“It’s very distressing,” Rosen said. “We’re waiting for the police and fire to investigate.”

A spokeswoman at Macomber Builders, the contractor hired by Emerson, had no immediate comment.

The contractor is based in South Boston and has been in business for more than 100 years, according to the company Web site. The site also promotes its employee safety program.

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