It is believed a crane has dropped a tub of concrete into a pit at the building site, where three men were working, police say.
It is believed a crane has dropped a tub of concrete into a pit at the building site, where three men were working, police say. AAP Image - James Ross

Crane company tight lipped after concrete killed worker

THE worker killed in a tragic work site accident on Thursday was a labourer whose family is devastated, it's been revealed.

Gerry Ayers, in charge of safety at the Victorian branch of the CFMEU, told reporters on Friday that the 48-year-old who was killed at Box Hill when more than a tonne of concrete landed on him "looked after OHS things" and "worked directly for the builder".

He said the man's mother was "extremely traumatised" at having lost her son.

Dr Ayers said the cable on the crane that was carrying a bucket full of concrete "snapped".

According to the Herald Sun, a crane expert visited the site and determined what caused the malfunction.

"The cable goes through a sheave and that's attached to the hook and that obviously takes the loads up and down," Dr Ayers said. "That apparently has snapped, causing the load to fall."

HOW THE TRAGIC INCIDENT UNFOLDED

FOR several frantic minutes, mates tried desperately to free a worker buried alive under a heavy steel bucket and more than a tonne of wet concrete, quickly setting.

They stood on planks of wood and used shovels to get to him but he died before they could pull him out.

High above, the operator of a hammerhead construction crane that had moments earlier malfunctioned and dropped its load, watched on in horror.

Crane at Box Hill
Crane at Box Hill AAP Image - James Ross

A second man was pulled from the pit in the foundations of a soon-to-be residential tower at Box Hill, east of Melbourne, shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday.

He was covered from head to toe in concrete and suffering from critical injuries to his head, chest and abdomen. He is fighting for his life in Royal Melbourne Hospital today.

Thankfully, a third man escaped with minor injuries when the kibble fell at Whitehorse Road and Watts Street with a loud bang that sounded like a house was being demolished.

The worker in his 40s who couldn't be saved on Thursday lay with a blue sheet over him as his colleagues met with counsellors.

"This is not something you ever want to see," paramedic Gary Robertson told reporters.

Dr Ayers said it most simply: "In our industry, you don't often get too many second chances … and tragically that's been proven again."

Mr Robertson said paramedics were pressed for time when they arrived at the chaotic scene.

"It was wet concrete and obviously as you can appreciate there's a timeline with that, because concrete sets," he said.

CRANE FAULTS 'RECORDED IN LOG BOOK'

Tools are down on the work site today as investigators try to figure out what went wrong. The bucket that dropped along with more than 1.5 tonnes of concrete remains half-buried in the pit at the basement level of the building.

Today the microscope is firmly fixed on the family business that supplied the crane, an outfit that refuses to speak to media or offer a statement.

Dr Ayers told AAP on Friday the crane operator's logbook could reveal faults were recorded prior to Thursday's incident.

"We're calling for a thorough, comprehensive inspection to make sure all of those Clark Cranes are operating to their manufacturers' specifications before they recommence work," Dr Ayers said.

"We hear this all the time ... that they're mechanical issues with different cranes. We suspect that this crane might also have some mechanical faults that are also recorded in the log book."

Clark Cranes, which has operated in Melbourne for more than 30 years, has been issued with safety notices halting the operation of its cranes at 80 sites across the country.

It's the second time in three months that one of the company's cranes have been involved in a chaotic incident in Victoria.

In July, busy Bridge Road in Richmond was closed for two days to residents after the construction crane - damaged in bad weather - threatened to fall on nearby homes.

Businesses that were affected have been considering taking legal action.

CFMEU Victorian State Secretary John Setka said the situation on Thursday was "madness".

"Absolutely tragic scenes on construction site in Box Hill," he wrote on Twitter.

"Our thoughts are with all involved … this is madness."

Mr Setka told 3AW a "mechanical failure" was responsible for the incident and one of the workers was "under the kibble for a while".

"It's massively chaotic. It's pretty traumatic, understandably. We've got counsellors on the way because a lot of the construction workers will need immediate counselling."

'I THOUGHT IT WAS THUNDER'

Witnesses said many workers, including the crane operator, had been seen leaving the site in tears.

Specialist urban search and rescue teams and 40 firefighters were needed to winch the dead man's body from the pit to retrieve it.

Assistant chief fire officer Brendan Angwin said "it was an extremely challenging incident" being a building site.

"There's been a lot of work to retrieve these people from the scene," he said.

Witness Colin Perry said he heard the noise first and then saw the crane did not look normal.

"It sounded like something crumbled in and then the crane rope was dangling in the air," he told 9 News.

James Steger, who was studying nearby, said there was "such a loud bang".

"It sounded like a house was being demolished," he told The Herald Sun.

Janine Stevens was at home in Court St, just one street over from the site, when she head the incident.

"I heard this incredibly loud bang," she said.

"Because we've got building works all around us I thought it was an everyday building noise, or even thunder."

The identity of the deceased worker has not been made public. The second worker, fighting for his life, has been identified as a 28-year-old man from Caroline Springs.

The third worker, who suffered a broken arm, has been identified as a 27-year-old man from Southbank.

News Corp Australia


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