A construction crane fell from a building on Google’s new Seattle campus during a storm that brought wind gusts, crashing down on to one of the city’s busiest streets and killing four people.
One female and three males had died by the time firefighters had arrived on Saturday afternoon, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said.
Two of the dead were ironworkers who had been inside the crane while the other two were people who were inside cars, Fire Department spokesman Lance Garland said.
A 25-year-old mother and her four-month-old daughter were in a car that was smashed by the crane on its passenger side, and both managed to escape with only minor injuries, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan said, calling it a miracle.
They and a 28-year-old man were taken to Harborview Medical Centre. A fourth person also was injured and treated at the scene.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office said it would not release names of people who died until Monday.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those killed and injured,” Ms Durkan said on Twitter.
The crane collapsed near the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue near Interstate 5 shortly before 3.30pm local time, Mr Scoggins said.
The city has dozens of construction cranes building office towers and apartment buildings. As of January, there were about 60 construction cranes in Seattle, more than any other American city.
Officials do not yet know the cause of the collapse. Police and the state Department of Labour and Industries were investigating, which Ms Durkan said could take months.
Daren Konopaski, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which represents heavy-equipment operators, told The Seattle Times he understood the crane was being dismantled when heavy winds moved through the area.
“We don’t know, but that’s what seems to have happened here,” he said. “We are in the process of trying to get information.”
The National Weather Service in Seattle said a line of showers moved over Seattle just about the time the crane fell.
An observation station on nearby Lake Union showed winds kicked up with gusts of up to 23mph at 3.28pm, just about the time officials said the crane fell.
“It was terrifying,” witness Esther Nelson, a biotech researcher who was working in a building nearby, told the newspaper.
“The wind was blowing really strong,” she said, and added that the crane appeared to break in half.
“Half of it was flying down sideways on the building,” she said. “The other half fell down on the street, crossing both lanes of traffic.”
Washington state governor Jay Inslee said in a statement: “Trudi and I join all Washingtonians in extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the four people who died in this afternoon’s tragic accident.”
The office building the crane fell from was badly damaged, with several of its windows smashed.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company was saddened to learn of the accident and that they were in communication with Vulcan, the real estate firm that is managing the site and working with authorities.
Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said on Saturday night that the mother and baby had been discharged, while the man injured was in satisfactory condition.