The Milwaukee Brewers postponed their game tonight in a gesture of respect to three workers who died Wednesday when a huge crane collapsed while lifting part of the roof for the team's new stadium.
Meanwhile, federal and local officials gathered at Miller Park this morning to begin their investigation. Traffic was tangled on the highway surrounding the stadium as motorists slowed to look at the damage.
Among the questions surrounding the accident is whether the new park will open next April as scheduled.
"We have no idea as to whether there will be a delay or not. We could just as likely be opening on time as not opening on time," said Brewers spokesman Laurel Prieb, the husband of team president Wendy Selig-Prieb and son-in-law of baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Five other workers were injured Wednesday afternoon when the crane broke in half as it handled the 400-ton load. It crashed into the partially completed stadium.
The 567-foot crane, nicknamed "Big Blue," was lowering a piece of Miller Park's $400 million retractable roof into place.
The names of three victims were not released. Only one of the injured -- the 64-year-old crane operator who fell up to 30 feet -- remained hospitalized today. He was listed in stable condition with a broken hip and broken shoulder.
Rescuers used dogs and searchlights to search the rubble for any other victims until late Wednesday, but none was found, Deputy Fire Chief Gerald Frank said.
Although the cause of the accident has not been determined, winds were gusting to 26 mph at the time the crane fell.
The Brewers, who now play at adjacent Milwaukee County Stadium, postponed their scheduled game against the Kansas City Royals.
"It's just a game, baseball," Mayor John Norquist said. "What happened today was death, and that's horrible."
Jeff Fleming, a mayoral spokesman, said the accident caused significant damage to the 43,000-seat stadium. He said he did not know how long it would set the project back.
Officials said the main concerns are finding replacements for the crane and for the roof pieces, which are made with a type of steel manufactured only in Luxembourg.
But despite several hundred tons of smashed, mangled structure, the Brewers insisted plans to open the ballpark next April haven't been abandoned.
Prieb said the team is playing "a very secondary role in what is going on" in the investigation of the accident. The team's most pressing concerns are financial burdens and public relations problems that delays might cause.
Officials stressed that County Stadium is safe. "This is still a dangerous area for when they start picking things up, but it won't affect the activity in the other ballpark," fire chief Larry Gardner said.
For several years, the team has planned its marketing and publicity agendas around Miller Park's existence. The team's slogan for the current season is "Bringing Down the House," and County Stadium was scheduled for demolition this winter.
Any delay in opening the ballpark would deprive the Brewers of millions of dollars in revenue. Still, the Miller Park project is thoroughly insured, members of the stadium's board of directors said.
The project has $325 million in property insurance and $70 million in liability insurance, with a deductible of $25,000, board member Bill Duckett said. The policy also contains a rider covering actual lost income sustained by the Brewers if the stadium is unable to open on time.
Last month, several Miller Park workers were injured when a steel girder being lowered into position collided with an aerial basket. On May 10, a worker was hospitalized for a week after falling 60 feet from the roof.
CAPTION: Workers at Miller Park survey the damage after the 567-foot crane known as "Big Blue" broke in half and crashed into the partially completed stadium. (Photo ran in an earlier edition)