"With a luffing crane there is a specific angle," said McGettigan. "You don't want the boom angle up too high. Obviously, with the higher the angle the easier the boom can blow over."

McGettigan speculated that the crane's jib was pointed into the wind before it collapsed, but he could not tell from news photographs whether or not is was weather-vaned properly.

"I guess it's a possibility that if the wind was hitting you straight on mildly, the jib could stay in that position," McGettigan said. "But the odds of that [are unlikely]."

Tower cranes are typically rated to operate in wind speeds up to 45 miles per hour. Their out-of-service winds speeds can be as high as 140 mph, experts said. Wind gusts in New York City the afternoon of the incident were at 26 mph, according to ">Weather.com.