The city’s star-crossed efforts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee took a tragic turn Sunday night when a crane on its way from Houston was struck by an 18-wheeler, killing the driver of the truck and badly damaging the crane.
Before the accident, a small crowd had begun to gather at Lee Park on Sunday on a tip, apparently true, that the city, after previous failed attempts, planned to remove the controversial monument during the Dallas Cowboys' Sunday evening football game against the New York Giants. At 9 p.m. a heavy police presence surrounded the statue, and police had barricaded Turtle Creek Boulevard. But soon after, the barricades were lifted and most of the police left.
The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to immediately remove the massive figure of two men on horseback, but crews have been struggling to get the job done. Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, speaking in a police department Facebook Live video, called Sunday night’s accident sad and said the city was focused on sending condolences to the family of the deceased truck driver.
“This evening, the city had procured a crane from the Houston area to come down to assist us in removing the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park,” Broadnax said. “It got to the city about 7:45 and began to commence to Lee Park. At 8:18, we were notified of an accident.
“As the crane was turning westbound on Infield Road coming off of S.M. Wright Freeway, it had a green light,” Broadnax said. “A semi truck came through the green light and collided with the crane. The driver of the semi truck is deceased. The driver of the crane did not suffer any injuries at this time.”
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Broadnax said he was not prepared to discuss the next step in taking down the statue.
“Really, that is not an area or something we are focused on tonight," he said. "Unfortunately, someone lost their life tonight, so that’s what we are focused on. Again, I want to so send out condolences to the family.”
Two small groups have been maintaining an intermittent vigil at the Lee statue, one in favor of removal and the other against, while onlookers, the curious and dog-walkers from the neighborhood have drifted in and out the scene. The park was quiet Sunday evening until word went out on social media that a crane was on its way.
According to a well-informed source, city staff had hoped to get the statue down on a night when most of the city would be otherwise occupied. Attempts Wednesday to lift it off its massive stone-faced concrete plinth failed when crews discovered the heavy statue was connected to a steel anchoring system inside the plinth and federal court issued a temporary restraining order halting the work. The judge lifted the order Thursday.