The cause of yesterday's failure of a JLG boom lift on the site of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, under construction in downtown Kansas City, Mo., is not yet clear, says Dan Euston, president of local general contractor J.E. Dunn Construction Co.

Kansas City Lift Failure
Photo: Ed Sturga/AP
An investigator photographs lift involved in fatal accident.

"We're just in the beginning throes of the investigation," Euston told ENR on Nov. 11. The accident has project officials "scratching our heads," he says.

The lift, which was being used to erect steel on the building, tipped over in the early afternoon of Nov. 10, killing one worker and injuring another. Both victims were in the platform when the lift fell.

One of the workers, Ryan Goodman, 35, was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Shane Wagener, 30, survived and is in serious but stable condition, according to the Kansas City Missouri Police Dept. Both worked for Detroit-based Midwest Steel, a subcontractor on the job.

The lift, which Midwest rented from a local supplier, was nearly new. "It only had 64 hours on it," says Euston. The workers were elevating the boom when the machine suddenly tipped. According to sources, the machine's base wheels on the ground were stationary and were resting on a flat, concrete surface.

During the fall, both workers were ejected from the platform, which came to rest a few feet from the ground on a semi-trailer full of steel beams, notes Darin Snapp, a spokesman for the local police.

"There was a lot of blood on the ground," says Snapp, adding that investigators are looking at whether the operators were following site protocols, such as wearing safety harnesses and following the manufacturer's requirements.

In addition to project officials and others with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration., a representative with the manufacturer, McConnellsburg, Pa.-based JLG Industries Inc., is investigating on site.

A similar JLG machine tipped over in downtown Philadelphia last month, killing the operator, who had driven it over a vault cover that suddenly collapsed, say sources looking into that failure. Despite the recent accidents, Euston stresses that boom lifts are not dangerous.

"As long as they are used on the right job and the right locations they should be safe," he says. "You cant use them on a hillside, and don�t drive up the steps with them."