At around 1:30 pm on Monday afternoon a three-story building that had been under construction for the past several months unexpectedly collapsed leaving four people injured, one of whom in critical condition.
The Fire Department arrived at the scene not three minutes after the collapse and discovered two people trapped underneath the rubble—one buried up to his waist and the other completely submerged. Both were removed immediately and rushed to nearby hospitals. Two more people sustained minor injuries, one of whom a civilian who rushed to the scene after witnessing the collapse to help those who had been pinned by debris.
“It looked like the smoke monster from LOST. There was a big puff of smoke rushing from outside the building and then we heard somebody screaming so we got our shoes on and ran outside,” said Jeff Wilser, a resident of Conselyea Street who lives just a few houses down from the scene of the collapse. “We saw someone—a big mass of brown rubble had fallen on him—and five of us started trying to dig him out. There was some blood on the back of his head. It looked like a swimming pool of bricks and debris.”
Approximately 28 units and 100 fire fighters responded to the call.
“We got a major collapse response from the Fire Department,” said James Leonard, a deputy assistant chief for the city’s Fire Department. “It was a total collapse. Our members specially train for collapse operations. There is a standard operating procedure and they performed to the highest tradition of the fire department. They did an excellent job.”
According to Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri the collapse was at least partially caused by “structural changes to the interior of the building”—the result of a gut renovation to add an additional floor and penthouse to the three-story building.
“We have preliminarily concluded that there were structural members that must have been compromised for the building to collapse in this manner,” LiMandri said.
LiMandri also said that the Department of Buildings plans to conduct comprehensive interviews with the contractor, China Perfect Construction Corp., and the engineer of record, Anthony Gennaro.
“Our investigation has set out to find out if the engineer of record or the general contractor was not monitoring the progress of this construction. We want to be able to interview and investigate what was going on in the days and months leading up,” he continued.
The building has a history of code violations, including a crack in the exterior of the building and a citation regarding rubbish inside the building. According to the Department of Buildings, the investigation will be ongoing.