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Three bodies pulled from crane-collapse site

Image: An emergency worker passes a section of crane.
An emergency worker passes a section of the collapsed crane on Monday, when three more bodies were recovered.Peter Morgan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three bodies were recovered Monday at the scene of a crane collapse that pulverized a town house on Saturday. Seven people were killed in the tragedy.

Rescuers retrieved the bodies of a woman and two construction workers from the rubble.

The woman had been visiting from Miami to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and see a friend who lived in the town house, said John LaGreco, owner of Fubar, a saloon on the ground floor of the town house.

The woman was in her friend's second-floor apartment at the time of the accident, he said. Her friend was rescued, he said.

The crane rose 19 stories and was attached to an apartment tower under construction when it broke away Saturday and toppled like a tree onto buildings as far as a block away. Workers had managed to move large pieces of the crane away by Monday.

Debris was being cleared "delicately and meticulously" to prevent further damage, said Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, who joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials at the scene on Sunday.

Twenty-four others were injured, including 11 first responders, Bloomberg said. Eight people remained hospitalized, officials said.

Human or mechanical error?
Officials were investigating whether human or mechanical error led to the construction-site accident, which the mayor described as among the city's worst. City officials said the broken crane passed inspection Friday.

Investigators were focusing on a heavy-duty collar used to tie the crane to the building's side, including whether a series of hoists and nylon straps was strong enough to sustain its weight, Lancaster told the New York Times.

The city had answered 38 complaints and issued more than a dozen violations in the past 27 months to the construction site where a 43-story high-rise condominium was going up. None of the violations was related to the crane, Bloomberg said.

On Sunday, the Reliance Construction Group, the project's contractor, released a statement expressing sympathy to the families of the dead and injured and said it was cooperating with government investigators.

"We have already launched our own internal investigation to understand exactly what caused this tragedy and we believe it is prudent not to comment further at this time," the company said.

The four workers killed in the accident were identified as Wayne Bleidner, 51, of Pelham; Brad Cohen, 54, of Farmingdale; Anthony Mazza, 39; and Aaron Stephens, 45, of New York City, police said Sunday. The worker found Monday had not yet been identified.

Residents had raised concernsAbout 250 cranes operate in the city on any given day, and the accident shouldn't alarm New Yorkers living near high-rise construction sites, the mayor said. "This is a very tragic but also a very rare occurrence," he said.

But neighborhood residents and a Manhattan borough official raised concerns about city inspections at the apartment tower.

Retired ironworker Kerry Walker, who with his wife lived in the top-floor apartment of the four-story town house and left minutes before the collapse, had complained that the crane appeared dangerously unstable, his stepson said.

"He knows all about cranes and said this one had no braces, everything was too minimal," John Viscardi said. "He told one friend on the phone that 'if you don't hear from me, it's because the crane fell on my house.'"