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College freshman among four dead in Seattle crane accident

Seattle Pacific University freshman Sarah Wong and three men, two of them crane operators, were killed Saturday when a crane fell at a busy intersection.
Emergency crews at the scene of a construction crane collapse in Seattle on Saturday.Joshua Bessex / The News Tribune via AP file

A college freshman planning to major in nursing was among four people who were killed when a crane fell from a downtown Seattle building into traffic below, college officials said Sunday.

Seattle Pacific University identified the woman as Sarah Wong, who was in a car on busy Mercer Street when the crane collapsed onto six vehicles at the intersection of Mercer and Fairview Avenue shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The college gave no other information on Sunday, but The Seattle Times reported that Wong was from South Pasadena, California, and that she hoped to become a neonatal nurse.

Three men, two of them crane operators, were also killed. The King County Medical Examiner's Office said it wouldn't identify them until Monday.

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers confirmed that two of the victims were members of the union.

Harborview Medical Center said Sunday that a 28-year-old man remained in satisfactory condition. A 25-year-old woman and her 4-month-old baby were treated and discharged on Saturday, it said. A fourth person was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

The site manager, Vulcan Inc., said that it; the general contractor, GLY Construction of Bellevue, Washington; and three subcontractors were cooperating with the investigation, which Tim Church, a spokesman for the Seattle Department of Labor and Industries, said could take six months.

"No one should ever have to go to work and not come home from their jobs," Church said.

Noting that the scene is in a very busy traffic corridor, Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Transportation Department, urged commuters to plan ahead for Monday's commute, saying affected roads could remain closed through Monday night.

That's because the crane must be moved to stabilize the facade of the building and roadway damage still needs to be repaired, Zimbabwe said.

"We're just at the beginning of understanding what happened," he said.

Mark Lawless, a construction safety and crane expert in Seattle, told NBC affiliate KING that accidents like the one Saturday are "few and far between."

"But when they happen, they're serious," Lawless said.

The last fatal crane accident in Washington occurred in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, in 2006 when a crane fell into an apartment building, killing a resident. A flawed foundation design and inadequate maintenance of the crane's base were blamed for the accident.