Three construction cranes crumpled by Irma. Crews scramble to secure dangling pieces

Work has begun to assess and secure two high-rise construction cranes that crumpled amid Hurricane Irma’s onslaught in Miami, but the job could take days, and figuring out what went wrong even longer, developers and contractors said Monday.

The cranes, at the Vice apartment tower in downtown Miami and the Gran Paraiso condo in Edgewater, snapped during the most intense parts of the storm on Sunday, though they’re supposed to be built to withstand winds around 145 miles per hour. A third crane, at a luxury condo tower under construction in Fort Lauderdale, also collapsed.

City of Miami inspectors were working Monday with the general contractors at Vice and Gran Paraiso to ensure that the damaged cranes are secured and that the buildings, which may also have been damaged by pieces of the cranes, are structurally sound. Both contractors must submit engineering reports on the condition of the cranes, said Maurice Pons, the city’s building official.

Pons said that early evidence suggests the winds experienced in the city weren’t beyond the intensity the cranes are supposed to withstand.

“It’s way too early to determine [what happened], but the winds that we have were within the design capacity,” said city building official Maurice Pons.

None one of the cranes fell to the street or struck adjacent buildings.

Developer Jorge Perez, whose Related Group is building Gran Paraiso, 500 NE 30th St., and the affected Fort Lauderdale tower, Auberge Beach Residences, said the cranes at both sites should be secured by Monday afternoon.


Part of a damaged crane brought down by Hurricane Irma rests against the construction site of the Auberge Beach Residences and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (

Joe Cavaretta South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

“Fortunately, nothing broke off and the parts were just dangling so there was no damage to persons or property,” Perez said in an email. “Thank God we missed a direct hit.”

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes downtown and Edgewater, said Miami was lucky the storm wasn’t worse. Irma’s sustained winds in Miami were at tropical-storm strength, though hurricane-level gusts were recorded.

“Had we had more of a direct hit, certainly more [cranes] would have come down,” Russell said.

But Russell did say three counterweights from the collapsed Gran Paraiso crane did fall in the street and were embedded several inches in the road asphalt.

“The neighbors next door say their buildings shook when those things fell,” Russell said. Another counterweight fell into the tower under construction, he added.

Russell accompanied Pons on an inspection to the top of the 50-story building, and said that though the shaft of the crane did not fail, the joint where its boom swivels appears to have given way.

Vice developer Property Markets Group said a second crane must be erected to remove the damaged crane and repair any damage to the unfinished apartment tower, 230 NE Fourth St. City officials said that PMG’s contractor, John Moriarty & Associates, explained in a phone conference that the crane’s counterweight had fallen through the interior of the construction site, piercing the building’s upper plate.

“We have had crews on the job all morning working to secure the crane and the ancillary parts to the structure so we can mitigate further risk,” PMG principal Ryan Shear said in a brief statement Monday, adding: “We are working closely with the City of Miami to ensure the safety of the community and to make sure the damage is repaired in an expedited manner.”

At Gran Paraiso, 600 NE 30th Terr., a spokesperson for the general contractor, Plaza Construction, said the street perimeter around the tower had been secured to keep members of the public away and evaluations of the damaged crane and the building structure were underway by Monday morning.

“Our crews are on it. They are meeting with city officials. Everybody is working together,” said Plaza spokesperson Cathy Callegari. “This is going to take some time.”

She said engineers had not yet ascertained whether the building under construction was damaged, or whether the crane needs to be replaced or can be repaired. The crane’s boom was damaged by Irma’s winds, but why that happened is unclear, Callegari said, noting that powerful gusts or tornados can happen during hurricanes.

“No one really knows what went on with this storm. It really matters how the wind hits the crane, the speed, the direction, the movement,” Callegari said.

The contractor at Auberge on Fort Lauderdale beach is Moss Construction.

After the first two cranes collapsed in Miami, leaving the booms dangling, city officials urged people living nearby to seek shelter in their own buildings away from the side facing the fallen crane, or in a stairwell.