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Woman sues Dallas apartments, crane company after she ‘skimmed death’ in fatal collapse

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Updated at 5 p.m. June 12: Revised to include additional information from attorneys for Chiasson and Bigge Crane and Rigging.

A woman who is suing after her Dallas apartment complex was ripped apart Sunday by a falling crane says she’s still in shock after losing everything in the collapse.

Macy Chiasson, a 27-year-old UFC fighter, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Dallas County, claiming negligence led to the accident that killed 29-year-old Kiersten Symone Smith and and injured Chiasson and several others.

Macy Chiasson, a 27-year-old UFC fighter filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Dallas County.

She and more than 500 other residents of the Elan City Lights apartments have been told they won’t be allowed to return to their homes.

The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages from the owners of Bigge Crane and Rigging, Elan City Lights and The Gabriella — the unfinished complex where the crane stood.

Greystar, the company that owns Elan City Lights and The Gabriella, did not respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit Tuesday and Wednesday. Randy Smith, corporate counsel for Bigge, declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

Chiasson said she’s still coming to terms with her close call.

"It’s been a little bit of shock and thankfulness, as far as being alive and just skimming death," she said. "I’ve lost everything."

She had just returned to her first-floor apartment Sunday afternoon and was folding laundry when she heard a loud boom. Immediately, she heard something crashing through the floors above her.

I just want to thank @DallasPD for coming to Elan Apartments and risking their lives to get people out. I was on the first floor below the crane and had to run out with my pup as it was happeneing. Thank you to the officer Kayla on patrol at the time for helping us. https://t.co/hX1MxW5NAW

— Macy Chiasson (@macy_chiasson) June 9, 2019

She whistled for her dog, T, as she saw smoke billowing, glass breaking and cars plummeting to the ground.

Chiasson grabbed her phone and a pair of shoes but had to run out of the apartment barefoot, suffering cuts from the broken glass around her.

In the apartment’s courtyard, people were running in their underwear, bleeding and covered in dust and debris, she said.

She saw one bloody woman still on the second floor who was calling out for help.

One death and several injuries were reported after a crane fell into the Elan City Lights apartment building and parking garage in Old East Dallas close to downtown, as a severe storm passed through Dallas on Sunday afternoon

"I couldn’t do anything," Chiasson said. "As much as I wanted to help her, the apartment behind her was not there. That was the hardest thing for me to watch because I just wanted to go and help her, and there was just no way."

Chiasson said she’s grateful to have her life, her dog and the clothes on her back. But she has lost everything else.

She says she’s been told her apartment is inaccessible because it’s not structurally sound.

Her driver’s license and passport are trapped inside, along with everything else. All of the undefeated UFC bantamweight’s gear and a trophy she’d won are lost.

Her attorney, Jason Friedman, said he met Chiasson while she was still wearing the clothes she fled in.

The lawsuit asks that a judge grant a temporary restraining order that would allow an inspection of the crane and construction site.

Chiasson’s lawsuit had asked a judge to grant a temporary restraining order that would ensure the complex and the crane company would not alter evidence at the construction site.

But Friedman said Wednesday said counsel for both Greystar and Bigge had agreed to preserve all evidence, rendering the need for the temporary restraining order unnecessary. Friedman said the defendants said that the site is under the control of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as its crews investigate.

"We wanted to be sure that the apartment complex and the crane company and the contractors aren’t there altering the crane or altering evidence or moving things," he said.

"You see that one crane — that was weathervaning, it was pointing in the wind," he said. "You look at the one that fell, it wasn’t facing that way."

An operator should unlock the brake on a crane before leaving work, so it can swing freely in the wind.

Barth said that though the grainy video was shot from far away, something was clearly wrong.

"You’ve got to know, they were facing in different directions and they should have both been facing the same way," he said.

Frank Branson, a Dallas lawyer who has represented workers who have suffered catastrophic injuries, said he thinks the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will find Bigge responsible for the collapse.

"The National Weather Service notified the public three hours before the winds, so operators knew serious danger was on the way," Branson said. "They have an obligation to the people who live in falling distance of it and to those on the job site to make sure they’re safe."

Bigge was cited for an Arkansas crane collapse in 2013 — for which the company was fined $56,700 and later settled for a lower amount.

Branson said Sunday’s collapse could be more troublesome for Bigge because the people who were hurt had nothing to do with the construction project.

"It would certainly make a difference to me if I were sitting on a jury," he said. "All of these people were injured in the safety of their own homes."

Staff writer Sarah Sarder contributed to this report.

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