Crane operator rescue challenges Pa. firefighters

Victim's leg was trapped between the ground and the crane wreckage

By Chuck Biedka
Pittsburgh Tribune Review

WINFIELD, Pa. — Officials are trying to determine why a large crane toppled about 100 feet off a small bridge on Mushroom Farm Road with the craneman inside.

The crane operator was part of a Russell Standard Co. work crew that's refurbishing the 36-year-old bridge when the mishap occurred just before 1 p.m. Monday.

The man and crane fell onto an area consisting of dirt and construction debris.

Police and firefighters said the injured man was talking to rescuers when he was put into a rescue helicopter for the flight to a Pittsburgh hospital.

State police, PennDOT and company officials said the man's identity was being withheld Monday until his family can be notified.

Winfield, Saxonburg and Buffalo Township firefighters scrambled to rescue the man, whose leg was trapped between the ground and the crane wreckage, said Winfield Fire Chief John Hartman.

"We tried airbags," Hartman said, indicating that they tried to lift the wreckage off the victim's leg. "That didn't work due to the soft earth and the machine was unstable. So we dug the dirt out underneath him."

Russell Standard site spokesman Mike Rowe said company and state officials are looking for a cause of the mishap.

The company is under contract to PennDOT to replace the bridge deck and otherwise refurbish the bridge, which is about 1,500 feet south of the intersection of Red Mill and Long Run roads.

PennDOT spokesman Sean Houck said the $1.8 million project was scheduled to open last month, but the company was delayed.

Rowe said the work is nearing completion.

Crews were working in the drizzle late Monday afternoon to clean up the mess.

According to PennDOT, the bridge carries an average of 1,600 vehicles each day. The two-lane bridge was built in 1974

Since April, traffic has been limited to one lane at a time.

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