The normal hustle in Seattle’s busiest tech neighborhood was subdued on Monday morning, as workers returned to gleaming office buildings in South Lake Union two days after a construction crane crashed from a future Google building into the street below, killing four people.
Those headed to jobs at Amazon and other nearby companies and businesses mixed on sidewalks with construction workers wearing hard hats and neon-colored vests. The latter have been busily building a booming hub to house the former for years now, and towering cranes like the one that fell on Saturday are a constant part of the backdrop.
On a blue-sky morning along a reopened Mercer Street, damage to the roof of the project, at the corner of Fairview Avenue, was clearly visible six stories above street level. People stopped to look up and some raised smartphones to snap pictures of the scene.
Colin Hall, a scientist at Novo Nordisk, commuted by bicycle from Bainbridge Island to his company’s building, kitty-corner from Google and the accident scene. He paused to take it in, saying that he first heard about it from a friend who texted him on Saturday.
“It’s tragic that people died,” Hall said. “There’s cranes everywhere and they make you a little nervous to see them up that high. But you figure they’re all put together correctly — just sounds like it was a freak accident. [The building] was nearing completion and now I imagine that they’re gonna take some time to make sure that the overall structure wasn’t damaged.”
Hall has been in the neighborhood for about three years, but he previously worked in South Lake Union 20 years ago.
“This was all abandoned, light industrial. Nothing was here,” he said. “So this is a new city for Seattle, seeing it all spring up like this. Cranes are part of that.”
With horns honking at the busy intersection, Hall said he didn’t plan to keep an eye on the sky or change anything about his route into work. As a cyclist, he said traffic was his biggest safety concern.
In the median dividing east and westbound traffic on Mercer Street, American and U.S. Marine Corps flags were attached to a tree near where the crane parts crashed into the street. Andrew Yoder, one of two ironworkers killed in the incident, was a 31-year-old former Marine from North Bend, Wash. He was a member of Ironworkers Local 86.
KATU2 out of Portland reported that Travis Corbet, 33, of Oregon City, Ore., was the other ironworker who died, and said that he, too, was an ex-Marine.
In cars that were hit by falling debris, Sarah Wong, 19, a freshman at Seattle Pacific University, and Alan Justad, 71, a longtime City of Seattle employee, were killed on the ground. Justad, who retired in 2014, was the former Deputy Director of the Department of Planning and Development and was the last victim identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday.
“When he died, we lost one of the best people that I and many people know.” Source confirms with me Andrew Yoder of North Bend was one of the ironworkers killed in yesterday’s crane collapse. #komonews pic.twitter.com/0NvColyHhx
— Patrick Quinn (@PatrickQuinnTV) April 29, 2019
Sarah Wong, the #Seattle Pacific University Student killed in the tragic crane collapse..was in the back seat of a car with another SPU student. That student survived. Both were in a car with an Uber driver. I’ll have more on #KomoNews at 330pm and 5pm. pic.twitter.com/QLev5QRfPk
— Suzanne Phan (@SuzannePhan) April 29, 2019
“He was the best person, so selfless.” The wife of 33-year-old Travis Corbet confirms he was one of the ironworkers killed in the crane collapse in Seattle. He’s a former Marine. These photos are from their wedding last summer. #komonews pic.twitter.com/q9PonYc8BD
— Gabe Cohen (@GabeCohenKOMO) April 29, 2019
As a young man paused Monday to take a picture, he made the sign of the cross on his chest and said “really sad” before continuing on his way. Workers from contractor GLY Construction crossed the street from the adjacent building under construction in the future two-block campus to look up at the damage to the building where the crane fell.
None were authorized to speak on the record and preferred not to share their names, but they described some of the heavy damage to a curtain wall and some machinery, including air conditioning systems, atop the building. Drone video footage shared in a tweet by a Q13 photojournalist captured the damage up high:
— Marc LeCuyer (@MlecuyerQ13FOX) April 29, 2019
One GLY worker said it was “sickening” to see the crane’s bent and twisted parts on the ground after they were moved to a nearby storage lot.
When asked what type of work they would be doing on Monday now that the site has been impacted, one worker said “we’re just being bummed out.”
Pierre Stromberg started working in the neighborhood last October. He walked down to Fairview Avenue to clear his head. As he glanced north across the intersection he had a view of the Google Cloud logo on the damaged building.
“There’s a lot of construction that goes on here,” said Stromberg, who commutes into Seattle from the Eastside. “Usually we don’t have an issue about it. They’re very diligent about making sure that we’re all safe. Who the heck knows what caused this crane collapse, I guess the investigation will bear that out. … It’s very sad.”
Another construction worker, not part of the Google project, walked over from an Amazon tower construction site several blocks away to pay his respects and get a look at the scene. He, too, preferred not to share his name. But he offered a first-hand perspective on the dangerous work being done by tradespeople of all kinds, working on the buildings being occupied by thousands of tech professionals.
“I’ve been busy since 2013, working consistently,” the worker said. “There’s a lot of heavy hearts today. I don’t know the guys but I know that that could easily be me or any of my friends and brothers and sisters in the trades.”
The worker said the crane collapse was the focus of the Monday morning safety meeting at his worksite, stressing the mantra that anyone who sees anything that could pose a potential safety risk should always report it.
Despite the risk of the work, the construction worker said he had no desire to trade places with the young people passing by on the street, headed to various tech jobs.
“You’ll see them looking out through the windows at us, and we look through the windows and see them and both of us think the other guy’s crazy for having the job they have,” the worker said. “Because most of us, if you put us in an office, we’d go crazy. … I was sitting on a steel beam in the rain looking at someone in an office looking out at us, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’d so much rather be where I am right now.’ ”
“Everybody’s got their job to do,” he said.