Los Angeles, CA Partial Office Tower Collapse, Dec 1985



Los Angeles, Calif. (AP) -- A construction worker at a downtown office tower says "it sounded like the whole building was coming down" when a stack of five-ton steel girders crashed through five floors, crushing three ironworkers to death.
Six other workers were hurt Wednesday by the beams, which were being hoisted one at a time by crane and stacked on the fifth floor of the building being built on Wilshire Boulevard, next to the Los Angeles Hilton, officials said.
The beams punched 30-foot-wide holes through sheet metal flooring as they plummeted through five floors above ground and six below ground, fire Capt. Anthony DiDomenico said.
"The three victims rode the steel all the way down from the fifth floor," he said.
Fire Department Deputy Chief Don Anthony said the stack of beams dropped when an ironworker pulled a pin to release a crane's sling. Bystanders said that as many as three dozen girders may have fallen, but authorities had no immediate estimate.
The names of the dead were not immediately released. Four workers were treated at the scene and two, whose injuries were described as minor, were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital.
One of the injured workers, JAMES GREEN, 46, of Downey, said he came perilously close to going down with his three co-workers.
"I thought I was gone," said the 23-year veteran of construction work.
"I said to myself, 'I don't think I'm ready to go.'"
"I was standing there fixing the wall and the steel and metal started falling all around us," GREEN said. "If I'd been thrown the other way I'd have gone in the hole - all the way down into the parking six floors below ground.
"Somehow I managed to crawl away from it. I just kept clawing ... It sounded like the whole building was coming down."
GREEN suffered only cuts.
"We are very distraught," said Bill Van Leuven, a spokesman for Swinerton and Walberg Co., which is building the office tower.
Peter Veilloux, 25, of Reseda, a Hilton window washer from R. C. Cleaning Corp., said he was standing 25 feet away when the steel fell.
"It was a big bang, and it took about 10 seconds for all the steel to fall," he said. "It was a big rumble of steel, followed by lots of dust. The metal down there is curled up like big pretzels. They were hauling beams up on a crane, and the cables on a beam snapped, sending it all the way through."
"It was a pancake effect, each floor impinging on the other," DiDomenico said.
The framework of girders which reach only eight floors at present, remained intact. Only the sheet-metal flooring, over which concrete was to have been poured, fell to the basement in the accident.
Bill Siener, manager for the Los Angeles district of the state Department of Occupational, Safety and Health, which is investigating the accident, said an inspection did not turn up any safety violations.
Cal-OSHA cited Swinerton and Walberg in the collapse of a subcontractor's crane in May 1981 at a Bunker Hill building site where two people were killed and five injured. Swinerton and Walberg and two subcontractors were cited then for 17 safety violations and fined a total of $3,600, of which Swinerton and Walberg was responsible for paying $400.
The company was appealing the $400 fine, and there had been no citations on the Wilshire project, company executive Clyde Wright said.

Casa Grande Dispatch Arizona 1985-12-19