On Sunday morning, a huge commercial air conditioning unit toppled nearly 30 stories to the street as it was being lifted into a Madison Avenue office building. City officials revealed yesterday that the AC unit was 23,000 pounds
The unit crashed into the building's facade, sending debris cascading into the street, and then the unit itself tumbled onto a car. Amazingly, the couple inside the car weren't seriously injured.
According to the Daily News, "Priscilla and Gregory Welch had just dropped off their daughter at work at Lord & Taylor on Fifth Ave. at 38th St. at 10:43 a.m. when they drove into a downpour of glass, metal and chunks of concrete." Priscilla Welch said, "I was just waiting to be crushed to death."
The Elmont woman was at the wheel of the Mazda CX7 and knew she and her husband were in trouble as soon as she turned onto Madison Ave. from 38th St. and saw a construction worker mouthing, “Watch out!”
“Before I knew it, everything started crashing. The car started shaking,” said Priscilla Welch. “I told my husband, just get down, and we got as low as we could. It felt like it was coming at us at over 100 mph. It was coming from all directions, I couldn’t tell if it was from right from left.”
Priscilla said a chunk of debris the size of a boulder hit the back of the Mazda, where their daughter had been sitting 30 seconds earlier. “I tried to continue to drive to get away from it as far as we could,” she said. She plowed into a fire hydrant, causing her air bag to deploy in her face.
Eight other people were injured.
The Department of Buildings' investigation is ongoing, and a full vacate order remains in place for 261 Madison. Officials say the "DOB will be examining all open and active crane rigging work performed by the company working at 261 Madison Avenue as a precautionary measure."
WABC 7 reports that the floor apparently buckled when the unit was being placed: "Workers experienced a sudden shaking and the floor buckling. There was a weight shift, and the air conditioning unit fell. Investigators are looking at what caused the floor to buckle, saying that either the payload was too heavy for the floor, or there could be a defect in the floor."
A steel beam also crashed through the ninth into the eight floor. And when the unit hit the street, it caused a small break to a 12-inch water main.
The Daily News, which described the AC unit as being the size of a shipping container, spoke to a business owner who was "shocked," but also found a bright side, "It's better it happened on Sunday because Monday to Friday at working time [there are] a lot of people."