On March 15, 2008, a towering construction crane fell from East 51st Street and 2nd Avenue, across East 51st, with the top section crashing onto a townhouse on East 50th Street. The collapse killed seven people; one survivor, a resident of the East 50th Street, testified in the trial of the crane's rigging contractor. John Gallego said, "I hear something like breaking, like when a train, let’s say a train is crashing. I look up through the window and I see a huge thing coming down." He was buried alive for four hours, "It was so quiet at one point that I was thinking I was dead."

Rigging contractor William Rapetti is on trial for manslaughter, as prosecutors say he used worn nylon slings to lift up a 12,000 pound component which gave way and led to the deaths. Rapetti, who opted to forgo a jury trial, claims that the crane itself wasn't properly anchored. Six of the seven people killed were construction workers; one was Gallego's friend who was visiting from out of town.

A tape of Gallego's frantic 911 call was also played:

It took firefighters two hours and 40 minutes to rescue Gallego. He underwent numerous surgeries over five days. He told reporters after his testimony, "I just want to get on with my life. I don't blame nobody." And Rapetti told WCBS 2, "I have faith in God; that he will not send me where the voice of God will not protect me. I will be vindicated."