Collapsed Crane Captured in Google Earth

Crane that Collapsed in Google EarthA few days ago, on November 16th, a large horizontal construction crane collapsed in Bellevue, Washington, killing one person in his fourth story apartment (a Microsoft employee who had only been with the company 5 months). The operator of the crane in his cage fell about 200 feet, but apparently survived with only minor scratches. Interestingly, the same crane is apparently viewable in Google Earth. The Digital Globe satellite photos of the area are dated August 20, 2006. And the crane has been in the area for a few months. One of the Google Earth Community moderators, ‘chief_sparky’, has posted some placemarks showing the crane and the damaged buildings in the area. You can read the news story about the disaster here, and a photo of one of the destroyed buildings. As of Saturday, a reason for the collapse had not been determined. Apparently, the crane had been moved from the location shown in the satellite photo, slightly to the east where the collapse occurred. It’s fascinating to see the subject of a news report in a 3 month old high resolution satellite photos. Here is ‘chief_sparky’s post.
[Update: I found this photo from this Seattle Times article, which shows the crane was located near the same location as shown in Google Earth (you can see the buildings as they relate to its position). Although the crane looks white in the satellite photo (the collapsed crane was yellow), I think that’s an effect of the angle of the sun and color processing of the photo.]

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Since you’re mentioning the date of the DGS photo’s of the site, is there a way to determine the date of every photo used in GE?

  2. Another crane accident on GoogleEarth :

  3. I lived a couple of years ago in the building where the accident occurred. The construction has been in a stand still for quite some time, the crane shown in the picture is white because it was another crane, which was replaced with the one which fell, once the construction started again.

  4. No way the images in GE are from Aug 2006 as a building just two blocks away that was completed in 2005 is still under construction in GE. The site the crane that collapsed was on has been under construction for years, getting no where fast due to bankruptcies.

  5. The above comments are correct about this picture being a lot older than 2006. The first crane on the site was white and in a totally different location than the yellow crane that fell over. The location difference is important because the change is related to the special base design used on the 2nd crane which may have lead to its failure. When construction shut-down around 2001 and the site was sold – redesign occurred and the general contractor changed and decided to move the crane location.

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