Intentional effort to remove Dinky canopy went awry, contractor says; council calls for full investigation
The collapse of the old Dinky station’s overhead canopy on Thursday was the result of an intentional effort to remove the awning, a spokesman for the University’s contractor working on the project, Turner Construction Company, said Monday. Town officials called for a full investigation into the cause of the collapse at a council meeting Monday evening.
The Dinky station had already been relocated to a temporary station some 1,000 feet south as part of the construction of the University’s Arts and Transit Neighborhood begun this summer.The former station was the site of an accident Thursday afternoon, when its awning collapsed onto the track bed, prompting a search and rescue operation that concluded once it was determined that no one had been harmed.
“I think we should treat that accident as if someone was killed,” Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said at a meeting Monday. “There was a mistake somewhere, because a big thing like that doesn’t just fall down.”
The Times of Trenton reportedthat thetown of Princeton has assessed a $2,000 fine to Turner Construction. Turner has worked with the University for many years and has been involved in construction on the Arts and Transit project since its inception.
On the day of the accident, workers for LDI Demolition had cut a two-foot section of the canopy where it was attached to the old station building, Turner Construction Vice President of Communications Christopher McFadden confirmed. They had plans to remove the canopy in the coming days, and the cut was made to protect the building as the awning was brought down, he said.
“The weight of the canopy stressed the remaining support structure, and that’s when it fell toward the tracks,” McFadden said, explaining the early results of the company’s ongoing investigation.
University Spokesman Martin Mbugua declined to comment on the details of the investigation, stating that it is ongoing. As of Friday, less than 24 hours after the incident, notices of the collapse had been removed from the University’s homepage.
The canopy attached to the old Dinky station fell onto the track bed at about 4:25 p.m., according to Mbugua. The Princeton Fire Department received a report that five workers had been working in the area approximately a half-hour prior to the collapse, according to Fire Chief Dan Tomalin, who was dispatched to the scene.
The University's Department of Public Safety and the Princeton Police Department began making calls to confirm the workers’ safety soon after the incident, he added.
At the time the Princeton Fire Department was dispatched, three of the five workers had been contacted and accounted for, he said. The remaining two were contacted and affirmed safe during the search process.
After the five workers had been accounted for, the agencies continued their search for trapped persons, as they had received reports that students may have been illegally crossing through the construction site, Tomalin explained.
Because the rescue required special equipment not available to the local fire department, Mercer County Task Force 801 was immediately called to scene, he added. He noted that other fire departments from the neighboring communities, as well as the state search and rescue team Task Force 1, were called to the scene to provide more assistance and equipment.
The search was concluded at about 9:10 p.m., after the area underneath the collapsed structure had been searched using video cameras, thermal imaging cameras, and dogs that sniffed for scents of human life.
“They had checked all the crash spots, they walked the dog around again, and they were pretty confident that there was nobody trapped under the rubble,” Tomalin explained.
Construction on the Arts and Transit development has resumed, McFadden confirmed. In the next phase of development, beginning in mid-October, a portion of University Place will be closed off and cars will be diverted along a temporary road through the construction site, according to Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget.
The development is scheduled to open in fall 2017 and will include a new Dinky station relocated about 460 feet south of the former station. There are currently six pending lawsuits challenging the move of the station.