Crane set to remove Lee statue in Dallas involved in deadly crash

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The city of Dallas’ plan to remove a Confederate statue suffered another setback.

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was supposed to be removed last week but the heavy tools and equipment needed to do the job had actually been moved to Houston to help with Hurricane Harvey cleanup.

A crane was on its way back to Dallas Sunday when it was involved in a deadly crash just south of Downtown Dallas.

According to Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, it appears the driver of a tractor-trailer was speeding, ran a red light and hit the heavy-duty crane at the intersection of Linfield Road and SM Wright Freeway. The truck driver did not survive.

“Our condolences are going out to the family of the semi-truck driver,” Broadnax said. “At this time the city is again feeling a little sad this evening about the incident that occurred.”

The crane’s driver was not seriously hurt, but the crane was damaged.

The statue’s removal was delayed once again after the crash. The first time, a court injunction halted work after the council voted last Wednesday to remove it. Then on Thursday, crews determined they needed a bigger crane. There was another delay because the one coming from Houston.

It was a little after 8 p.m. when the accident happened. Both the police chief and city manager arrived on scene minutes later, which was highly unusual for a traffic incident.

“We’re going to regroup and figure out how to proceed tomorrow after we spend some time assessing the current situation,” Broadnax said.

What is not clear is if the intent was to begin removing the statue immediately Sunday night. A heavy police presence has been guarding it day after day as delays drag out the process.

The city manager is authorized to spend $400,000 on the removal. He has not yet asked council for any additional funds.

“I'm not certain of the expense. That's something the city manager will continue to deal with,” explained Mayor Pro-Tem Dwaine Caraway. “We authorized a certain budget. I’m certain he is staying in the realm of that authorized budget."

“Everyone is rolling up their sleeves and doing what they need to do,” said newly-instated Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall on the police department’s strained resources. “There are some challenges, but we are facing them head on and we are meeting all the needs."

The city has not announced any progress on finding a crane big enough to remove the monument or an operator willing to take on the delicate and controversial task.        

In an effort to remove the statue without damaging it, some stones needed to be removed from the base of the 81-year-old monument. The engineering from the 1930s has been more challenging than first expected.

Caraway said the statue ultimately will be stored and not destroyed, which is why careful efforts are being made during the removal process.

Guards remain at the monument for fear of potential vandalism.