Soccer

Attorney: No problems before Brazil collapse

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)

The crane operator involved in last week's deadly accident at the Sao Paulo stadium that's hosting the opening match of the World Cup told police Wednesday that he'd noticed nothing out of the ordinary ahead of the incident, his attorney said.

Lawyer Carlos Kauffmann said Jose Walter Joaquim's 1 1/2 hour-long statement to police Wednesday was the crane operator's first since the Nov. 27 accident that killed two construction workers when the crane collapsed as it was hoisting a 500-ton piece of roofing.

Police are still investigating the cause of the accident, and media reports have said the three main hypotheses are human error, a problem with the crane and the possibility that the ground, soaked by several days of rains, ceded beneath the weight of the metal structure.

Kauffmann said Joaquim told police that before the accident, ''he didn't notice any problem. Because if he had noticed a problem, he wouldn't have gone ahead with the operation.''

''Everything was happening normally, completely normally,'' the Sao Paulo-based attorney told The Associated Press by phone.

Kauffmann stressed Joaquim's experience, saying the 56-year-old had been operating cranes for 34 years and had already hoisted 37 similar pieces of roofing onto Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians without incident. The roofing structure that came crashing down last Wednesday was to be the final piece.

Joaquim's statement came as top brass from world football's governing body, FIFA, and Brazilian sporting officials gathered in the northeastern coastal state of Bahia ahead of the World Cup draw on Friday.

Brazilian officials have come under fire from FIFA over delays in delivering the 12 stadiums that are to host World Cup matches. Four of the six stadiums used in the World Cup warm-up tournament held earlier this year were delivered late, and Brazilian officials on Wednesday acknowledged that none of the six remaining stadiums will meet FIFA's Dec. 31 deadline.

Brazilian media reports were rife with speculation that hurry to deliver the Arena Corinthians, which is also known as Itaquerao, well ahead of the June 12 opener may have contributed to the accident. Some of the 1,350 workers on the site told journalists that 12-hour-long shifts were not unusual, although others insisted they worked standard 8-hour-long shifts.

Work on the site was stopped for four days following the accident but largely resumed on Monday, except on the area immediately surrounding where the accident took place. Odebrecht, the construction firm building the stadium, said the off-limits area represents only about 5 percent of the total site.

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