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Published: Saturday, 8/13/2005

Manufacturer of bridge crane in bankruptcy

The Italian manufacturer of a crane that collapsed last year at the Veterans' Glass City Skyway construction site in East Toledo, killing four construction workers, has begun bankruptcy proceedings in its home country.

A hearing for creditors of Paolo de Nicola has been scheduled for Sept. 21 in Padova, Italy, according to a letter sent to creditors, including Richard Kerger, a Toledo attorney whom the heavy equipment manufacturer had retained as local counsel.

Joe Rutherford, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, said PdN's financial status shouldn't affect the timely completion of the $220 million project to build an I-280 bridge over the Maumee River.

And a spokesman for Fru-Con Construction Corp., which on Dec. 17 sued the crane manufacturer over liability for the damages incurred in the Feb. 16, 2004 collapse, said the general contractor for the bridge project had no comment about the bankruptcy.

Four men were killed and four others injured when one of two identical cranes constructed by Paolo de Nicola fell to the ground while being repositioned.

The following July, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the accident most likely was caused by Fru-Con's failure to follow the crane manufacturer's instructions for securing the cranes' legs during operation.

In the lawsuit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Fru-Con faulted the manufacturer for the cranes' "inability to accommodate the horizontal radius, or 'curve,' in the bridge," and "incomplete welds," and said "numerous field corrections" were required on the equipment. The second crane has been returned to service.

Mr. Kerger said he is not familiar with Italian bankruptcy law, but if it is at all similar to that of the United States, the crane manufacturer's action shields it from any liability for the Toledo accidents unless willful wrongdoing on its part can be demonstrated.

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