BRIDGE COLLAPSE Report: Span contractor had been warned

TOLEDO (AP) -- Months before a crane toppled and killed four ironworkers, the contractor was warned that it was not properly securing the cranes used on a bridge project, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Federal investigators blamed improper anchoring for the collapse of one of two cranes specially designed to build the span over the Maumee River in northwest Ohio. Four other workers were hurt when the crane fell a year ago.
The Blade said Fru-Con Construction Corp. was repeatedly told by the cranes' designer -- Paolo de Nicola SpA of Italy -- that it was not properly anchoring the cranes. The newspaper reviewed thousands of e-mails, memos, letters and witness statements about the accident and interviewed dozens of people involved in the project.
"We hope that you clearly understand that the inadequacy of the anchorings may cause the collapse of the equipments," Paolo de Nicola engineer Andrea D'Elia warned the company in one memo.
Five months after the collapse, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Fru-Con $280,000 -- the maximum allowed -- saying the accident likely was caused by company's failure to follow the crane-maker's instructions. Fru-Con has appealed the violations and disputed the findings, saying it secured the crane under the supervision of the manufacturer.
Lucas County prosecutors and Toledo police are still investigating the Feb. 16, 2004, collapse. No lawsuits have been filed.
The Blade said Fru-Con officials received four e-mails from Paolo de Nicola in mid-2003 warning that the cranes were not properly secured.
Fru-Con told the newspaper that "problems were encountered and immediately corrected" with the cranes.