By Patrick Markey
Patrick John O’Doherty is a lucky man.
But he’s starting to think he might not be so fortunate the next time.
A construction laborer in Manhattan, the Kerry-born immigrant was one of the three men working on the crane that collapsed last week in Midtown, killing one worker and injuring O’Doherty and two others.
As the crane began to slip, O’Doherty and another man leaped 20 feet to the street as the structure collapsed above them. Sporting a broken left heel and a possible chipped bone in his right leg, O’Doherty knows how close he came to serious injury.
"All we heard was this huge bang. I looked at my partner, saw the fear in his face and heard him say, ‘Jump,’ " O’Doherty said Monday from his bed in Bellevue Hospital, where he had just undergone another round of X-rays.
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"All I remember is the pain shooting through my legs and praying that nothing was going to fall on top of me. Next thing I hear is all the screaming and crying," he said.
After securing the 300-foot crane for last week’s tropical storm winds, city building officials believe on Friday the crane operator may have tried to hoist the machine without releasing it’s special restraints.
Toppling onto West 24th Street, the crane was left a mangled mess of red steel at the side of a concrete shell of the construction site. Nearby, Kenneth Preiman, a carpenter from Pennsylvania, was crushed as he waited on the sidewalk to start work.
"It’s sad. He was thinking of quitting the company last week. But a few of us convinced him to stay on," O’Doherty said.
Last week’s accident was not the first time the Irishman has dodged toppling machinery.
Four years ago, while working at a site in Queens, a crane snapped sending the boom crashing into the building where the construction team was working. In that incident, no one was killed, but it has set O’Doherty’s mind to wondering about the next time.
"I don’t want to push it too much. Irish luck only goes so far," the 30-year-old laborer said.
O’Doherty expects to be released this week and head back to Long Island, where he lives with his wife, Lelia, a special education teacher in the Bronx, and the couple’s daughter, Nicole.
But having survived an accident and a hospital bed, O’Doherty is now struggling with another lurking menace: attorneys digging for lawsuits.
Soon after the accident, calls started streaming in from personal-injury lawyers. One barged into O’Doherty’s ward to offer him a free limousine ride home if they could take a crack making a case out of the incident.
"I’m just happy I’m alive. These guys are like vultures, it’s ridiculous," O’Doherty said. "I just want to get home and be with my daughter and my family."