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INTRO: After postponing the lift of the first piece of the Miller Park roof for 17 days because of wintry weather, the builders of the Milwaukee Brewers' new ballpark went ahead with the job Friday even though it was snowing and the temperature was a frigid 8 degrees. They completed the task without any apparent hitches. Victor Grolitsch, project director for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese firm that is building the roof, called it the largest lift ever done for a steel-roofed structure. Standing near the 423-ton roof piece as it was being hoisted by the project's 467-foot "Big Blue" crane, Grolitsch said he decided to proceed despite the cold and snow because the wind was virtually calm. He pointed to a flag atop the stadium superstructure, about 200 feet above ground, and noted that it was hanging straight down. Wind stronger than 10 mph would have halted the lift because it could have caused the huge roof piece to sway dangerously. From test lifts conducted earlier this week, including one to 80 feet, Grolitsch determined that the roof piece was tightly secured to the crane's cables and that it was a well-balanced load. As it was, the section -- 260 feet long, 100 feet wide and 13 feet high -- was raised straight and true, starting about 9:30 a.m. Friday. It then was rotated in the air and set in place about 200 feet above ground by about 11:30 a.m. A four-man crew operated the crane, while two sets of two-man crews in "man-baskets," hoisted in the air by other cranes, called directions by radio. Supervisors gathered on the ground near the crane's cab. About 30 ironworkers spent the afternoon bolting and welding the roof piece to the steel superstructure of the stadium. In weight, the roof piece is about equal to a 747 jetliner. In size and weight, it equals one-third of the Bradley Center roof. It is the first and biggest of 31 pieces that will make up the Miller Park roof. Grolitsch said the 600-foot span of the roof, when finished, also will set a record for a roofed stadium. The roof will have two fixed panels, one each down the left field and right field lines, and five movable panels. The piece lifted Friday was the first third of the left field fixed panel. None of the other lifts will be quite as heavy as Friday's, Grolitsch said. Even the comparable roof piece for the right field fixed panel won't be as heavy because of the peculiarities of the design, he said. The roof is scheduled to be completed by November. Mitsubishi's contract for the roof work is worth $47 million. The ballpark itself, a nearly $400 million project, is set to open in April 2000. WHAT HAPPEND: Miller Park investigators focus on crane base Stadium official cites many possible crash factors, but UWM expert points to wind From the Journal Sentinel Last Updated: July 18, 1999 The massive base of the Big Blue crane that collapsed last week at Miller Park has become the prime focus of the investigation into the accident, which killed three workers and caused extensive damage to the Milwaukee Brewers' new stadium, a stadium board official said Saturday. That prompted one expert to suggest wind could be a major reason why the 567-foot crane and its 400-ton load crashed into Miller Park. Wind gusts at the time of the accident reached 25 to 30 mph, and some ironworkers are reported to have argued that it was too risky to attempt to lift the huge roof piece into place. A failure in the crane's base would tend to indicate wind as a factor in the crane's collapse, Al Ghorbanpoor, chairman of the civil engineering department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said Saturday. "Typically speaking, wind becomes more of a factor if the base is implicated," Ghorbanpoor said. Investigators now are focusing on the base of the crane - not the top, which carried the roof piece - as the key to the crash, said Mike Duckett, executive director of the stadium board. Still, there are a number of possible reasons why the base may have given way, including wind, operator error, a cable giving way, or metal fatigue in crane components, he said. "Obviously in that type of setup with a load that large, an abrupt movement by the operator, any number of factors could have still caused that base to fail," Duckett said in an interview Saturday. He also spoke to a reporter in an interview late Friday. A spokesman for the firm that built Big Blue said Saturday that investigators had told the firm's president that wind was a key culprit in the Miller Park accident. "Wind looks to be a probable cause or a major factor in the cause of the accident," said Bruce Stemp, a spokesman for Neil F. Lampson Inc. of Kennewick, Wash. Company president Bill Lampson declined to comment when he was approached by a reporter at the accident site Saturday. The reason why the base gave way in the accident remains officially undetermined. Duckett said Big Blue's manufacturer had reason to point the finger elsewhere. "He's got a problem," Duckett said. "His crane went down." Legal experts have predicted that a number of lawsuits could result from the accident. "You can't rule out the wind," Duckett said. But the investigative focus on the crane base "certainly doesn't narrow it down to just being the wind," he said. Another source close to the investigation agreed that the causes of the crane's collapse are potentially complex. "What caused the situation at the bottom could be one of many, many factors," the source said, adding that leverage may have played a role in the accident. "A minute change up top creates a massive change down below," the source said. "You have to think of it as a massive 500-plus-foot pry bar." At Miller Park on Saturday afternoon, investigators in hard hats and rain jackets dodged puddles and examined the base of the fallen crane as a light mist fell. Deputies shooed away a gawker who ventured too close to crime-scene tape. Atop the stadium's cornice, crows cackled and squawked. The investigators looking for clues and snapping photos, a deputy said, belonged to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and insurance companies. Forensic engineers and metallurgists will be brought in this week to examine the crane wreckage to figure out exactly what caused the base to give way, Duckett said. "From what I've heard, the forensic experts will be able to tell us if it's a twisting, wind-related issue, or a material or mechanical failure, or an operator-error issue. But we probably won't have an OSHA report for months," Duckett said. Wind can put stress on the crane's boom that would be resisted by the machine's base, Ghorbanpoor explained. And that horizontal stress could expose any defect in the gears and machinery that make up the crane's base. The strength of the crane's metal components depends in part on the number of lifts it has made and the weight hoisted, Ghorbanpoor said. Investigators will put crane parts under a microscope to determine how much they have been stressed or overloaded. Ghorbanpoor, who has investigated a crane collapse on the East Coast, said officials would likely examine Big Blue's components that are "directly in the line of load" to look for signs of wear and tear. Cables, the boom and the base would be the focal points of such an investigation, he said. "Definitely, metal fatigue becomes a factor," he said. Ghorbanpoor offered a simple analogy to illustrate metal fatigue. "Take a metal paper clip," he said. "Bend it a few times. Eventually it will break." Duckett said investigators want the base of the crane to remain off-limits, even though they are about ready to let the construction team start moving around the parts that fell on top of the new stadium and on the right field wall, into the ballpark, down the seating bowl and onto the field. OSHA still wants more experts to look at the top of the crane, Duckett said. The agency will bring a second crane expert to view the wrecked Big Blue next week, Duckett said. At this point, Duckett said, no one has concluded that there was a failure in the structure of the crane. "No. Even the eyewitness accounts are so varied," Duckett said. "I've heard someone said the (crane's) tracks left the ground. Well, no, the tracks never left the ground. Another person said a cable snapped. But another person said, no, a cable never broke. With all the people out there, there's already so many different stories," Duckett said. "That's why we've just got to let the experts do their thing. We just don't know," he said. Construction could resume before an official determination of the cause of the accident, Duckett said. However, the project won't start up again until officials are confident there's no danger, he said. Stadium officials have decided they will have to buy 200 tons of replacement steel for the damaged roof from the same Luxembourg supplier they initially used, Duckett said. The special steel is not available in the United States and the project can't be retooled for other kinds of steel, he said. He declined to estimate whether the time needed to obtain the European steel would preclude workers from finishing Miller Park in time for the opening of the baseball season next spring. Steve Schultze, Kenneth R. Lamke and Tom Vanden Brook of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report. THE DEATH TOLL: Jerome Starr, 52 Family: wife Ramona Residence: Milwaukee Jeffrey Wischer, 40 Family: wife Trish and three children Residence: Waukesha William DeGrave, 39 Family: wife Marjorie and three children Residence: Kimberly Thank you for visiting my page at Angelfire. Please come back and visit again!