Sport

20 years after deadly crane crane at Brewers' Miller Park, it's still 'an emotional roller coaster'

Post to Facebook

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

Milwaukee firefighters from Ladder 16, that service the county stadium area, familarize themself with with the Miller Park construction area Monday, Jan. 10, 2000, including the new crane, a Van Seumeren Demag CC-12600, that replaced the ‘Big Blue’ crane that collasped killing three ironworkers this past summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new crane, named ‘Big Red’ by ironworkers, will make it’s first lift Wednesday weather permitting. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel files

  • The crane known as Big Blue appears to hang over County Stadium as a full house of Brewers fans enjoy Opening Day on Friday, April 16, 1999.1 of 61
  • The huge crane at Miller Park known as Big Blue, has been lengthened by 100 feet to allow workers to lift the large steel framework that will support the roof panels that are part of the movable roof on Monday, June 28, 1999.2 of 61
  • Big Blue on Sunday, July 11, 1999, three days before the accident. This image shows the base and counter weights.3 of 61
  • Big Blue on Sunday, 7/11/99 before the accident showing the base and lower control cab and operator cab on right. Photo by Scott Mahnke4 of 61
  • Another piece of the puzzle is put into place as Big Blue slowly maneuvers a Miller Park roof section onto the new stadium structure on Tuesday afternoon, July 14th, 1999.5 of 61
  • Debris flies through the air as the crane known as Big Blue collapses at Miller Park on Wednesday, July 14, 1999. The crane was outside the ballpark and fell into the seating bowl, draping over and damaging the exterior wall.6 of 61
  • Parts of 'Big Blue' lie inside Miller Park on Wednesday, July 14, 1999, after it collapsed as workers attempted to place a roof section.7 of 61
  • People stand near the tangled debris near the base of Big Blue on Wednesday, July 14, 1999.8 of 61
  • Exterior damage to Miller Park can be seen Wednesday, July 14, 1999, not long after the crane known as Big Blue collapsed when workers attempted to place a section of the roof.9 of 61
  • Parts of Big Blue and roof segments lie in a heap within Miller Park Wednesday, July 14, 1999.10 of 61
  • Jeffrey Wischer, one of three workers killed in the Miller Park construction accident on July 14, 1999.11 of 61
  • Jerome Jerry Starr, one of three workers killed in the Miller Park construction accident on July 14, 1999.12 of 61
  • William Degrave, one of three workers killed in the Miller Park construction accident on July 14, 1999.13 of 61
  • A wide view of Miller Park's seating bowl shows the amount of damage created when Big Blue collapsed into Miller Park on Wednesday, July 14, 1999.14 of 61
  • A pair of Milwaukee Police officers block traffic along I-41 in Milwaukee on Wednesday, July 14, 1999, after the collapse of Big Blue.15 of 61
  • A Milwaukee Police officer directs a Salvation Army Emergency vehicle to the site of Miller Park Wednesday, July 14, 1999, after the collapse of Big Blue,  a large crane being used to lift roof segments. The accident killed three construction workers.16 of 61
  • The remains of Big Blue can be seen draped over the exterior wall of Miller Park on Wednesday, July 14, 1999.17 of 61
  • Officials talk to reporters on Wednesday, July 14, 1999, outside Miller Park after the Big Blue crane collapse.18 of 61
  • Inspectors and members of the Milwaukee Fire department get their first view of Big Blue on Thursday morning at the Miller Park construction site. Shown is the bent pivot pin on which the large crane rotated.19 of 61
  • Investigators inspect wreckage of the Big Blue crane and parts of Miller Park's roof on  Thursday, July 15, 1999.20 of 61
  • Iron workers stand in the center field area of Miller Park inspecting damage on Thursday July 15, 1999.21 of 61
  • Twisted metal from Big Blue and parts of the stadium roof rest on top of a second crane damaged when Big Blue collapsed on Wednesday, July 14, 1999.22 of 61
  • A group leaves Miller Park after viewing the destruction caused when Big Blue collapsed while lifting a 400-ton roof section.23 of 61
  • An official appears tiny against the backdrop of destruction caused when Big Blue collapsed while lifting a 400-ton roof section.24 of 61
  • The remains of Big Blue lies in pieces one day after collapsing. Three people were killed in the accident.25 of 61
  • Toppled counter-weights lie beside Big Blue on Thursday, July 15, 1999.26 of 61
  • The wreckage of Big Blue shown on Thursday, July 15, 1999.27 of 61
  • An Investigator examines wreckage on Thursday, July 15, 1999.28 of 61
  • Part of Big Blue crushed a worker's basket inside Miller Park.29 of 61
  • Milwaukee Brewers players warmup before their game on Friday, July 16, 1999. The damage to Miller park can be seen in the background.30 of 61
  • An iron workers' helmet with a safety is our target sticker on it lies inside the accident perimeter at Miller Park.31 of 61
  • A worker surveys the scene of the Big Blue accident site on Friday. Milwaukee County Stadium can be seen in the background.32 of 61
  • This view, taken on Friday, July 16, 1999, shows the enormous task ahead to remove the crane accident debris from Miller Park.33 of 61
  • A Brewer fan tries to get a clear photo of the damage to Miller Park before entering County Stadium on Friday, July 16, 1999.34 of 61
  • The Big Blue accident site can be seen  from the County Stadium upper grandstands.35 of 61
  • Milwaukee County Sheriff Lev Baldwin holds a press conference on Sunday, July 20, 1999, in front of Miller Park to announce a broken water main has been found underneath the Big Blue crane that collapsed on Wednesday.36 of 61
  • Iron workers attach cables to remove the remaining Big Blue counterweights on Monday, July 21, 1999. Each counterweights weigh 40,000 pounds.37 of 61
  • The investigation into the collapse of Big Blue continues at the accident site inside Miller Park on Thursday, July 22, 1999.38 of 61
  • A crushed construction cage sits inside Miller Park Sunday as media members and other visitors get the closest glimpse yet of the damage caused when Big Blue toppled while making a lift. According to Michael R. Duckett, executive director of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, the cage is similar to one in which workers were killed during the accident.39 of 61
  • On Sunday, members of the media and other visitors got a glimpse of the mangled remains of Big Blue as well as the partial roof structure that was destroyed in the accident that also claimed the lives of three construction workers. The view is from an east entrance into Miller Park.40 of 61
  • Members of the media and other visitors to Miller Park Sunday get a glimpse of the mangled remains of the Big Blue crane accident that also claimed the lives of three construction workers. The view is from an east entrance into Miller Park.41 of 61
  • A leather work glove lies flattened in gravel among the mangled remains of  Big Blue. The accident claimed the lives of three construction workers.42 of 61
  • A iron worker looks into the cab of Big Blue as repair work begins on Tuesday, July 27, 1999.43 of 61
  • Iron workers in a basket are lowered near the wreckage of Big Blue as repairs begin on Tuesday, July 27, 1999.44 of 61
  • Construction workers work on the upper level of the Miller Park Stadium on Thursday morning, July 29, 1999.45 of 61
  • A construction worker welds on Thursday morning, July 29, 1999, while Big Blue is dismantled in the background.46 of 61
  • Miller Park workers continue the task of dismantling and removing Big Blue on Tuesday, August 3, 1999.47 of 61
  • Brandenburg, a demolition company , begin work at Miller park Saturday afternoon. The company was hired to clear the remains of Big Blue and the part of the stadium that was destroyed when Big Blue broke killing three iron workers.48 of 61
  • On August 19, 1999, more than a month after Big Blue collapsed, much of the twisted wreckage  still  lies within Miller Park. But stadium officials claim they are pleased with the progress being made.49 of 61
  • Terry King of Butler, the first ironworker to break silence after the Miller Park tragedy said on Friday, August 20, 1999,  he had warned the project manager three separate times that the 400-ton piece of roof being lifted that day was dangerously tilted, but was ignored. King had confronted Victor Grotlisch, then supervisor of the project, with his concerns about the wind and how one end of the segment being lifted  appeared to be tilted at a bad angle. King says he told Grotlisch at one point, to lower the piece and start over.50 of 61
  • The Miller Park crane accident led to concrete damage, as shown in this aerial view of Miller Park on Tuesday, Sept, 7, 1999. Much of the debris from the collapse has been removed.51 of 61
  • Counter weights for a new crane wait to be employed as pieces of Big Blue (left) are loaded into a truck on Thursday, November 11, 1999, at Miller Park. The first lift for the new crane will take place around the first of the year.52 of 61
  • Milwaukee firefighters from Ladder 16, that service the county stadium area, familarize themself with with the Miller Park construction area Monday, Jan. 10, 2000, including the new crane, a Van Seumeren Demag CC-12600, that replaced the 'Big Blue' crane that collasped killing three ironworkers this past summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new crane, named 'Big Red' by ironworkers, will make it's first lift Wednesday weather permitting.53 of 61
  • Levi Krohn, 2, and his dad Curt Krohn of Waukesha, watch construction progress at Miller Park on Wednesday January 12, 2000.54 of 61
  • Big Blue's replacement, the Van Seumeren Demag CC-12600, lifts a roof segment at Miller Park on Friday, January 21, 2000.55 of 61
  • James Gultry, finance director of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, surveys ongoing work at Miller Park on Wednesday, February 23, 2000.56 of 61
  • Nearly all evidence of last year's accident appears gone as fans enjoy the Brewers home opener on Monday, April 10, 2000.57 of 61
  • This is the view inside Miller Park as work continues Friday, July. 7, 2000, in Milwaukee. After a decade-long process that has been by turns controversial and tragic, the Brewers' new home is mere months from completion. Already 75 percent finished last month, Miller Park is well on schedule to be ready for opening day 2001.58 of 61
  • This view on September 1, 2000, shows the tracks that will guide the Miller Park roof segments as it opens and closes.59 of 61
  • An aerial taken on February 28, 2000 shows Miller Park nearly complete. The area on the lower right is the site of the Big Blue crane collapse on July 14, 1999.60 of 61
  • With opening day just around the corner, Miller Park work continues late into the evening on Thursday, March, 1, 2000.61 of 61

Trish Wischer’s husband was an ironworker who was the son and brother of ironworkers.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that her youngest son would become one, too.

Wischer is proud her son chose ironwork as a profession but she worries, as moms do, about his safety. Her feelings of concern for her son are rooted in tragedy.

Twenty years ago Sunday, Wischer heard the news about the Big Blue crane collapse at Miller Park and instinctively knew, even before getting official word, that her husband Jeff was involved. Later she learned he had been killed along with two fellow ironworkers.

Of her 28-year-old son R.J., she said, “He really enjoys (ironwork.) Everybody likes him; it’s not because of whose son he is but who he is.”

It’s difficult for Wischer and her family to go to Miller Park. They go to ballgames and events and walk by the sculpture of ironworkers in the plaza in front of the home plate entrance memorializing the loss of three lives.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster. This time of year is very difficult for me,” Wischer said. “I don’t care what anybody says. You don’t get over losing the love of your life.”

Lifting the equivalent of a Boeing 747

When plans were unveiled for what would become Miller Park, at the forefront of the design was a retractable roof that opened like a poker hand. Lifting roof sections into place required a very specialized piece of equipment — a 567-foot-tall machine called “the mother of all cranes” and “Big Blue” because of its bright color.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the firm hired to design and build the stadium’s roof, rented Big Blue from Neil F. Lampson Inc. to lift the equivalent of a Boeing 747 into the air more than 30 times. On July 14, 1999, construction crews were scheduled to lift a 450-ton piece of the roof destined for the stadium’s right field. But that morning brisk winds delayed the work.

Late in the afternoon, the roof section was picked up by Big Blue and began moving into place. Jeff Wischer, William DeGrave and Jerome Starr were lifted 200 feet into the air in a “man basket” by another crane to observe.

A video shot by a federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration official vividly shows the accident — a high-pitched screeching followed by several loud booms as ballast on Big Blue falls to the ground. Then the crane slowly topples over, crumpling against the stadium’s outer wall, debris raining down as horrified onlookers gasped and shouted expletives.

Falling debris collided with the basket, sending the men to their deaths.

Their widows hired attorney Robert Habush in a lawsuit against Mitsubishi and Lampson and during a trial, Habush argued that Mitsubishi’s on-site superintendent and two others disregarded the hazards of lifting the roof piece in conditions that were too windy. 

A Milwaukee County jury in 2000 found Mitsubishi 97% negligent and Lampson 3%, awarding the widows a total of $99 million. The verdict was appealed and ultimately a $57 million settlement was reached.

“Like many tragedies, it was preventable,” Habush said in a phone interview this week. “Just some plain common sense and some appreciation for the lives of your workers would prevent something like that.”

Though construction jobs continue to be dangerous, safety measures and training have changed in the 20 years since Wischer, DeGrave and Starr died.

When a large section of the Hoan Bridge fell off a year after the Big Blue crash, requiring emergency repairs in the heavily-used traffic corridor, state Department of Transportation officials were mindful of the Miller Park tragedy when devising a fix.

Among the options to salvage the damaged section of the Hoan Bridge were ones requiring workers to position themselves directly under the dangerously unstable structure. Those options were not chosen and high-velocity explosives were instead used to demolish the damaged section of the bridge. There were no injuries.

Noting that concrete and steel can be replaced but human lives cannot, a DOT official said in 2000: “We all remember the Miller Park incident. We didn’t want to go through that.”

CLOSE

Video recorded by a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration official shows the Big Blue crane collapse at Miller Park on July 14, 1999.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration

‘You don’t ever want to forget’

When Miller Park Stadium District Executive Director Mike Duckett goes to work every day at the ballpark, he drives past the spot where Big Blue toppled over. He often thinks of that day, the lives lost, the pain, the sorrow.

“It’s something you don’t ever want to forget because you don’t want the industry to get lax,” said Duckett, who had just left Miller Park to pick up his daughter from day care when he got a call about the accident. 

Many have forgotten that three workmen were killed building Miller Park’s predecessor, County Stadium, Duckett pointed out. A carpenter died of a skull fracture in 1950 when a heavy beam fell on him and two men were fatally injured in 1952 when the hoisting bucket they were riding in plummeted from a height of around 90 feet.

Three months before the Big Blue accident, a 53-year-old plumber suffered a heart attack and died at Miller Park’s construction site.

The OSHA video of the crane collapse is frequently shown in worker safety classes. Plus new technology has improved hard hats, reflective vests and eye and ear protection as well as techniques to ensure workers don’t fall on the job, said Tony Mayrhofer, business manager of Iron Workers Local 8 in Milwaukee.

The Big Blue crane accident “definitely grew awareness of the value of safety,” said Mayrhofer, who was an apprentice at the time of the crash. “A lot of people, especially ironworkers, understand safety is not to be taken lightly. We all look out for each other so we can all go home at the end of the day.”

Wendy Selig-Prieb, Brewers president at the time of the accident, remembers seeing Vice President of Stadium Operations Scott Jenkins rush up to her that afternoon. She had never seen Jenkins, a college track athlete, winded and knew before he said anything, that something terrible had happened.

“You have three men who went to work and never came home,” said Selig-Prieb. “I remember attending all of the funerals, meeting the families, the whole community felt the pain. It was the community coming together in the best way for the worst reason.”

The next weeks and months were a blur as the Brewers continued playing games at County Stadium, where baseball fans could see the remains of Big Blue and watch crews clean up the wreckage before resuming construction of Miller Park.

In the years since Miller Park opened in 2001 – a year later than originally scheduled – the stadium has hosted concerts and soccer games, an All-Star Game, a no-hitter thrown by a Cubs pitcher, Brewers’ wins and losses and playoff runs deep into the post-season.

Yes, Miller Park is the Brewers’ home. But it’s also a gleaming monument to the people who built it.

Trish Wischer now has eight grandchildren ranging from a 1-year-old to a recent high school graduate. All three of her children and their families live in Wisconsin, as does Wischer, something she didn’t think would happen.

“When (Jeff) passed I thought I’d be out of here. But the overwhelming support from everyone was incredible and I stayed,” said Wischer, who met her husband, a New Berlin native, while she was in college and working as a waitress in Colorado.

Jeff Wischer’s father was an ironworker who was injured in a fall at a work site and when Jeff returned to Wisconsin from Colorado to visit his dad, he decided to move back. The couple married on Dec. 28, 1988, in a small wedding in Milwaukee and lived in Waukesha where they were raising their three kids.

She has seen changes for the better in the ironworking industry.

“You can tell by even the changing of the harnesses they wear. They make sure everybody is safe,” Trish Wischer said. “Accidents happen when they’re just straight-up accidents. But there’s a difference between an accident and a tragedy.”

She’s not sure why her youngest son decided to become an ironworker but figures it’s probably the same reason her husband did, because it’s in his blood. And because her son feels the same pride in watching cement and steel transform into a building that will last for generations.

“I look at all the places Jeff built. We used to drive around with the kids and say ‘Oh, look at what daddy built,’ ” she said. “I think my son wants the same thing.”

Post to Facebook

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand near the Ironworkers Memorial at Miller Park as Steve Hallman places roses on the memorial Thursday,  just before the 20th anniversary of the Big Blue crane accident.1 of 18
  • Steve Hallman, president of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club, stands near the Ironworkers Memorial.2 of 18
  • Miller Park is reflected in Brian Smoke McCambridge's sunglasses as he poses near the Ironworkers Memorial. McCambridge said he remembers the accident as if it just happened yesterday.3 of 18
  • Brent Hoffa Grensavitch and Brian Smoke McCambridge pose near the Ironworkers Memorial.4 of 18
  • Brian Smoke McCambridge high-fives a member of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club as he departs from the Ironworkers Memorial.5 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand near the Ironworkers Memorial.6 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club pose for a photo in front of Miller Park near the Ironworkers Memorial.7 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand in front of Miller Park near the Ironworkers Memorial.8 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand in front of Miller Park near the Ironworkers Memorial.9 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand near the Ironworkers Memorial.10 of 18
  • Three roses are placed on the Ironworkers Memorial.11 of 18
  • Steve Hallman, president of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club, stands near the Ironworkers Memorial.12 of 18
  • Steve Hallman, president of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club, pulls up to the Ironworkers Memorial.13 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club depart on their motorcycles from the Ironworkers Memorial.14 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand near the Ironworkers Memorial.15 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club stand near the Ironworkers Memorial on Thursday, July 11, 2019.16 of 18
  • Miller Park sits in the background in front of the Ironworkers Memorial.17 of 18
  • Members of the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club pose in front of Miller Park near the Ironworkers Memorial.18 of 18

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/604494972/0/usatodaycomsports-topstories~years-after-deadly-crane-crane-at-Brewersapos-Miller-Park-itaposs-still-aposan-emotional-roller-coasterapos/

Loading...

Best Wordpress Plugin development company in India     Best Web development company in India

Related posts

Donald Trump’s likely next sports event: The Ultimate Fighting Championship

Times of News

Joe Burrow leads way as No. 2 LSU defeats No. 1 Alabama to take stranglehold on SEC West

Times of News

WGC Memphis: How No. 16 at TPC Southwind could be the PGA Tour's $1 million hole

Times of News