Fiance of woman killed when Dallas crane fell recalls chaos
DALLAS (AP) — As Kiersten Smith watched an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” her fiance prepared a lazy Sunday lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Just feet away, Eric Ridenhour said they were chatting when a crane crashed into their downtown Dallas apartment complex.
“I had zero vision but I could feel the air in front of me when I was yelling her name and it was just texture. I could feel texture. It was like you could grab the air,” said Ridenhour, 34.
Their living room, where Smith had been sitting on the couch, was gone. And from their second-floor apartment in the five-story building, Ridenhour looked up to see daylight.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ridenhour offered details from inside the building where a construction crane, buffeted in a June 9 storm, came crashing down, killing his 29-year-old fiancee and injuring several others. As he and Smith’s family prepare for her Saturday funeral, officials have released little information on why this crane fell in a skyline that’s dotted with them.
Ridenhour, who had cuts and bruises, said that after the crash he pulled his downstairs neighbor up to his apartment and they waited on his balcony with one of his dogs until firefighters came. “I was yelling at them: ‘My fiancee’s down there. My fiancee’s in there, my fiancee is in there,’” he said.
He said he saw rescuers go into the first floor and heard them say they’d found a body. At first he couldn’t tell who it was, but then saw it was her. “They were doing CPR on her right there on the stretcher. I just saw her arm just lifeless,” he said.
The large crane at a construction site across the street ripped into the Elan City Lights — a complex built around courtyards — at several points. There were multiple collapses, including in the parking garage and apartments. The storm that afternoon brought winds up to as 71 mph (114 kph) to the area, downing trees and power lines . The Dallas County medical examiner’s office said Smith died of blunt force head injuries.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Juan Rodriguez said Thursday that he couldn’t release any information about the investigation, other than to say it remains open and is ongoing.
Jonathan H. Cox, a Houston attorney representing Ridenhour and Smith’s mother, says the family right now is “just trying to come to grips” with what happened. He said he’s trying to help them get answers. They have not yet filed a lawsuit.
“Our goal right now is only to get answers and to see if we can have experts help us determine what happened. And then we’ll decide what to do from there,” Cox said.
Smith and Ridenhour were set to be married at a Florida beach in September. “It was just going to be family and fun for a week,” Ridenhour said.
They’d met in 2017, a few weeks after Ridenhour transferred to Dallas from Phoenix to work at Tenet Healthcare’s headquarters. Smith, who also worked there, stepped onto an elevator and “caught my attention right away,” he said.
“She was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “So we started talking slowly after that. I found where she sat so I’d find a reason to kind of get up and take a little break, just to talk to her.”
The couple, who enjoyed traveling and cooking, had been excited about the development going up across the street because it would include a grocery store.
“We used to like to try to out cook each other, which made for really good meals all the time,” Ridenhour said.
Their lunch that day was one of those collaborations: She’d bought the soup the day before and he decided grilled cheese sandwiches would be the perfect accompaniment.
“It was a normal day, it was Sunday, kind of gearing up to go to work on Monday,” said Ridenhour, who said Smith was excited about work because she’d started a new position at Tenet in human resources.
The day after the collapse, Ridenhour said he discovered their other dog, Lucky, had been found alive and unhurt. He said Lucky could usually be found at Smith’s feet.
Ridenhour said the world lost someone special when Smith died and he wants people to know about her: “She was heaven on earth — just the embodiment of happiness and life and love and everything that’s good.”
“I don’t even think tragic is a fair enough word,” he said.
Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg contributed to this report.