Crane collapse conclusion: probe implicates SBG

Investigations into the crane collapse at the Makkah Grand Mosque rule out equipment fault and finger error on the part of the operator.

Saudi Binladin Group has been working on the Grand Mosque project for four years.
Saudi Binladin Group has been working on the Grand Mosque project for four years.

Incorrect positioning by operator, Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), has been cited as "part responsible" for the Grand Mosque crane collapse in Makkah which killed 109 pilgrims last month. 

Investigations into the fatal incident ruled out mechanical fault. 

In the event, the manufacturer dispatched both “local Liebherr experts and experts from the Ehingen manufacturing plant [to assist] on site”, Wolfgang Beringer told PMV, noting: “As the manufacturer, Liebherr will do everything in its power to help bring the accident investigation to a speedy and logical conclusion.”

Beringer, added: “Liebherr is extremely saddened by this tragic accident and the fatalities and injuries, and expresses its deep sympathy to the families of the victims. We hope that all injured persons will recover quickly.”

Liebherr Group’s subsequent independent investigation of the incident has concluded that the crane was “technically faultless”.

The LR11350 crawler crane in question had been erected with a boom length of around 190m. At the time of the accident, the crane was out of operation and parked, and the boom should have been lowered to the ground.

On the afternoon of 11 September 2015, the strong thunderstorm and sandstorm achieved wind speeds of 105kmph, according to readings from a Liebherr tower crane close to the site of the accident. At such wind speeds, “the operating instructions of the LR 11350 and the associated wind speed charts show that the crawler crane could not withstand such a high wind load and that the boom should have been lowered to the ground preventatively to avoid the tilting of the crawler crane”, according to a public statement prepared by Liebherr.

In the event, the crane was caught by the wind and tilted over its last support rollers.

An initial investigation by Saudi authorities subsequently quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) concurred that the crane had been left in the “wrong position” when winds struck, and indeed that “the position was in violation of instructions by the manufacturer”.

The company has meanwhile sought to reiterate to the operators of comparable Liebherr cranes around the world “the influences that wind has on cranes” and the need for “unconditional compliance with the appropriate regulations” contained in the operating instructions.

Cause for consternation

On the ground, the contractor’s executives have been banned from leaving the country pending legal proceedings, while King Salman, ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’, has instructed prosecutors to prepare an indictment.

Damningly, Mecca Daily has reported that Prince Khaled Al Faisal, emir of Makkah and advisor to the custodian, warned Bakr bin Laden, chairman of SBG, about the safety of his equipment just 11 days before the crane collapse at the Grand Mosque.

The emir advised the group to take all necessary safety and security measures at the Grand Mosque project site, while the accident investigation committee investigating the crash found that the project contractor had ignored several messages from concerned agencies to review the condition of the cranes.

SBG has been prohibited from seeking new public projects until the case is closed, while the ministry of finance has been ordered to “urgently review all government projects being executed by the group and others to ensure compliance with safety procedures”, added the SPA.

There have also been calls from industry experts for the formation of a body dedicated to the oversight of health and safety requirements on major projects in the kingdom.

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