Image: Crane collapse
Emergency personnel gather at the car crushed by a crane, at left, in Oklahoma City, Thursday, July 24, 2008.
updated 7/24/2008 2:45:34 PM ET 2008-07-24T18:45:34

A crane holding a church steeple toppled Thursday morning, crushing a car and killing an 80-year-old man who was watching the construction from inside the vehicle, firefighters said.

The man's wife, 78, who was also in the car, was transported to a hospital in good condition, ambulance officials said.

The accident happened in the parking lot of a new church being built in southwest Oklahoma City at 10 a.m. A group of people had gathered to watch the installation of the steeple, said Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay.

Grace Assembly of God Pastor Joe Hancock said he was taking photos from the back of the church when he realized something had gone wrong. The crane started to tip when the steeple was about 10 feet off the ground, he said.

He said the couple were longtime church members.

"Just great people," he said. "It's just a huge loss."

The operator of the crane was not injured.

The woman was in the back seat of the car and the man was in the front passenger seat, said Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, which operates emergency transport for the area.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Labor Department were to investigate.

Aerial video taken of the accident showed the Barnhart company name stenciled on the side of the device. Calls to the company for comment were not immediately returned.

The boom of the portable crane came to rest on the car, the smashed white steeple still attached. The boom appeared to be at least 80 feet long.

There have been several deadly crane accidents around the country this year, including one in Houston last week that killed four contract workers and injured seven others. Crane-related deaths have also occurred in New York, Miami and Las Vegas.

An Associated Press analysis in June found that cities and states have wildly varying rules governing construction cranes.

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