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Winds Worried Stadium Workers

July 16, 1999

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A union official said Thursday that many workers thought winds were too strong just before the deadly collapse of a giant crane being used to build the Milwaukee Brewers’ baseball stadium.

Three workers were killed and five injured Wednesday when the 567-foot crane collapsed and essentially broke in half as it was lowering a piece of the stadium’s retractable roof. The three victims were in a basket suspended from a smaller crane inside the stadium.

Winds were gusting to 26 mph at the time, and some workers were doubtful it was safe to lift the roof sections, said Brent Emons, business manager for Ironworkers Local 8, which represents workers on the project.

``We’re not engineers. We’re iron workers,″ he said. ``But we have a gut feeling of when we should and when we shouldn’t, and most of our guys felt we shouldn’t.″

Ironworkers Local 8 business representative Steve Boudreaux told WITI-TV in Milwaukee that he spoke with one victim, Jerome Starr, about an hour before the accident.

``He questioned as to why we’re doing this ... ,″ Boudreaux said. ``Why they carried on is beyond us.″

A medical examiner’s report stated that Starr’s wife said that she had stopped at the construction site shortly before the accident and was told by her husband that there had been an argument about whether to proceed with the roof raising.

Sheriff Lev Baldwin said investigators were looking at all possible causes, including the wind.

Fire Chief Larry Gardner said two ``black boxes″ in the cab of the giant crane recorded wind speeds and the weight being lifted, but mechanical problems had prevented investigators from retrieving the data.

About one-third of the stadium’s seating area was damaged. Brewers Vice President Laurel Prieb said it was too early to know whether the ballpark will still open as planned in April.

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