Crane crash rattles Pac Heights

When a crane fell in Pacific Heights, it was definitely heard.

A telehandler, which is part crane and part forklift, toppled Tuesday morning when its one-man crew was unloading six olive trees.

The accident occurred shortly after 11 a.m. on a hilly portion of Lyon Street near the corner of Broadway, just outside the gates of the Presidio. Crews on scene reported that the machine toppled down Lyon when the operator tried to lift the first tree off the delivery truck.

“I just heard the boom when it fell, and then heard the man shouting to call 911,” said Rosalnd Hill, who works as a housekeeper in a house on the corner of Lyon and Broadway. She called for help, then went outside to watch the action.

“He wasn’t badly hurt — he got out of the thing by himself and walked down to the stretcher,” Hill said.

The operator was sent to the hospital with a minor head injury, according to San Francisco Police Sgt. Robert Springer. An Acura parked on Lyon Street was dented in the accident, and officials with U-Save Rentals, which owns the telehandler, said it was too soon to tell how badly it was damaged.

The fallen machine also leaked what fire officials believed to be hydraulic fluid.

“This is the most excitement we’ve had since Nash Bridges stopped filming here,” said Mark Nelson, a driver employed by one of the neighborhood homeowners.

A second crane was called to lift the heavy machine off the street, fire officials said.

Emergency personnel would not release the name of the operator, who was hired to install the half-dozen trees.

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said the trees were donated by the family of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, but it was unclear to whom they were donated. Department of Public Works officials said the trees, which were set to be planted next to the sidewalk on Lyon Street, were not donated to their department.

The Hearst family is putting the finishing touches on a brand-new house one block away, at Lyon and Pacific, and were getting ready to install furniture before one of Patty Hearst’s siblings moves in, neighbors said.

Because the worker was the owner-operator of his own contracting business, state safety officials will likely not investigate the accident, according to Dean Fryer of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The accident is the latest in a series of crane collapses locally and nationwide.

On Jan. 7, a San Francisco dockworker narrowly avoided major injuries when he jumped from an industrial crane right before the structure toppled into San Francisco Bay at Pier 70. In March, four people died in Manhattan when a crane collapsed at a high-rise construction site.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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