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Fallen crane in South Lake Union kills four, including Seattle Pacific student

A construction crane collapsed on Mercer Street near Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Times tweeted that several vehicles and a building were damaged.
Chelsea Oughton
via The Associated Press
A construction crane collapsed on Mercer Street near Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Times tweeted that several vehicles and a building were damaged.

UPDATE, April 28, 7:15 p.m.: Adds information about the state investigation and more.

A construction crane collapsed in downtown Seattle on Saturday afternoon, damaging buildings, pinning cars beneath it and killing four people. 

The Seattle Times reported the victims were dead by the time first responders arrived at the South Lake Union scene at Fairview Avenue North and Mercer Street. The King County Medical Examiner's Office won't identify them until Monday, according to the newspaper.

One of the people killed was Sarah Wong, a freshman at Seattle Pacific University who was from Southern California. Charles Strawn, the university's dean of students, said Wong was in a car with another student when the crane fell. The other student survived. He said there's been an outpouring of emotion on campus as people learned of Wong's death.

"It’s been heartbreaking but also encouraging to see all the folks gather around to celebrate her life but also mourn the loss, because it’s a loss our campus feels pretty deeply," Strawn said.

Wong had planned to major in nursing and was active in the Pacific Islanders club on campus, Strawn said.

“This is a tragic day in Seattle with this catastrophic incident in the heart of our city," Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. "My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones today, and we are praying for strength for those injured." 

Seattle Fire Department officials said the fatalities included two workers in the crane and two people in separate cars on the street below. Three people were transported to Harborview Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. Susan Gregg, a hospital spokeswoman, said a 28-year-old man remains in satisfactory condition; a 25-year-old mother and her 4-month-old baby were discharged late Saturday. A fourth person was treated at the scene. 

"A full and thorough investigation into the cause of the crane failure is being conducted by Washington State Department of Labor and Industries," the department said in a release.  

The crane was in the process of being disassembled at the time of the accident, said Tim Church, a spokesman for the department. Labor and Industries has had an investigator and a crane supervisor on the scene since shortly after the accident gathering evidence.

"It's a very complex, painstaking process," Church said, adding that agency staff members have been taking photos and measurements, interviewing witnesses and examining pieces of the crane.

The department is required by law to conclude its investigation within six months, Church said. Four companies involved with the crane will be investigated, including the general contractor, GLY Construction, he said.

Durkan said in her statement that local agencies are working closely with the state to repair roads and determine the cause of the tragedy. 

The crane collapsed shortly before 4 p.m. at the construction site for a new Google campus. It toppled onto a building, damaging it and six vehicles, according to Seattle Fire. 

Tweets from the scene showed the crane collapsed on the street, with vehicles stopped in the vicinity. Witnesses told The Times the wind was blowing really strong at the time of the incident. No official cause has been determined. 

All lanes were closed, and motorists were told to avoid the area. Seattle police officials said more information would be released as it becomes available.

With Amazon and other tech companies increasing their hiring in Seattle, the city has dozens of construction cranes building office towers and apartment buildings. As of January there were about 60 construction cranes in Seattle, more than any other American city. This is the first fatal crane accident in the Seattle area since 2006, according to The Seattle Times. 

This story is developing. Check back for updates. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.