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Originally published October 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Suit filed in Bellevue crane-collapse fatality

The parents of a man killed by a tower crane that collapsed into his Bellevue apartment nearly a year ago filed a lawsuit Thursday against...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The parents of a man killed by a tower crane that collapsed into his Bellevue apartment nearly a year ago filed a lawsuit Thursday against a contractor and an engineering firm.

Kathleen Gaberson and Larry Ammon, parents of Matthew Ammon, and their attorneys filed the claim, which seeks unspecified damages, in King County Superior Court.

Matthew Ammon, 31, died when the crane collapsed Nov. 16 along 108th Avenue Northeast in downtown Bellevue. He was a Microsoft attorney who had moved to Bellevue in June 2006.

Ammon was at home in his apartment on the top floor of a building across 108th Avenue Northeast when the tower crane fell, with part of the crane collapsing onto the apartment.

The lawsuit was brought against Lease Crutcher Lewis, general contractor on the building site, known as Tower 333, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates, an engineering firm that provided design services for the building.

Magnusson Klemencic did not comment Thursday.

Bill Lewis, president of Lease Crutcher Lewis, wrote in an e-mail: "Lease Crutcher Lewis has worked diligently with the other companies associated with the crane and its installation to determine who may share in the blame for this event and to what degree. The companies involved in the crane event acknowledge that one or more of them are responsible and are analyzing the failure to determine which companies are."

The filings cite an investigation of the collapse done by the state Department of Labor & Industries that found the tower-crane base was inadequately designed, that the design specifications used for the crane foundation did not meet requirements of state building codes, and that the base was not maintained and inspected as required by those codes.

Both firms were fined by L&I and have appealed the fines and the conclusions reached by state investigators. No hearing date has been set for the L&I appeals.

"Despite the state's investigation and report, the companies that caused our son's death are refusing to acknowledge their responsibility," Gaberson said in a statement. "Because they will not agree to accept responsibility, we had no choice but to file a lawsuit."

The lawsuit states that the two firms had a duty to perform a safe installation and that Magnusson Klemencic failed to prepare design plans and specifications for the crane in a "reasonable and safe manner."

The Ammon parents lost their only child, the filings add. The lawsuit was prepared by Michael Wampold, attorneys with the Seattle firm of Peterson Young Putra.

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The 210-foot crane was installed in summer 2006 on a steel parking-garage structure that had been in place from previous construction work for a building that had been abandoned.

A replacement crane was installed in January on a concrete pad placed at ground level.

Now nearly finished, the Tower 333 building is scheduled to open late this year. Expedia, the Internet travel-services company, is expected to occupy most of the building and move its headquarters there in 2008.

A trial date of March 23, 2009, was scheduled.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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