Rescuers abandon their search at the site where a part of an apartment building collapsed in Davenport (Iowa) for three men believed to be dead.
The main focus of efforts is to ensure the stability and safety of the remnants from the building before authorities start recovering the bodies.
Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlsten stated that they were doing their best to balance building conditions with the safety of responders.
Authorities said that a Iowa Task Force had completed their search for survivors on the site of an apartment building in Davenport which was partially collapsed. They did not find three people missing who were believed to be dead. Authorities have now shifted their focus to strengthening the structure in order to begin recovery efforts.
In the first 24 to 48 hours following the collapse of the six-story building on Sunday, the remains were in constant motion. This posed a danger to the rescuers searching for survivors.
The chief of the Cedar Rapids Division of the Task Force, Rick Halleran said, “We do as the building says we should do.”
Officials from the city said earlier this week that Brandon Colvin and Ryan Hitchcock were not home and “had a high probability” of being there at the time the collapse occurred. The National Database of Missing Persons now lists all three.
Halleran stated that the state task force mobilized and was on site in order to secure and protect the building, and then search for survivors. Halleran said that the search for survivors ended Thursday evening, after the electrical equipment in the building was controlled. Search dogs, cameras and the state’s search-and-rescue team were used to search for survivors on Thursday.
Officials are concerned that the building is unstable and will collapse eventually on its own. The building’s base is covered in a huge pile of bricks and steel that may also contain the remains of those who died during the collapse.
Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said, “We’re doing our best to balance building conditions with the safety of the responders.” He said that the conditions forced him to delay his response by “days or weeks”, instead of just minutes or hours.
Mayor Mike Matson said that the debris pile could be “a resting place for some unaccounted”, and emphasized the city’s sensitivity to those remains. He compared the work at the site with an archaeological dig.
The building is being brought down amid questions as to why the owner and city officials did not warn residents of potential dangers, even though a structural engineering report released last week showed that a wall in the century-old structure was imminently at risk of falling.
Documents released on Wednesday night reveal that city officials and building owner had been warned months before about the unstable nature of certain parts of the building.
Do I regret this tragedy or the potential loss of life? “Hell yeah.” Do I ever think about it? “Hell yeah”, Matson replied on Thursday. I have regrets over a number of things. We’re going look at it.”
Officials from the city said that they didn’t order an evacuation on Thursday because they trusted the engineer to assure them that the building was safe. Matson has promised to improve the inspections and investigate what happened.
The building collapsed just before 5 pm on Sunday. Seven people were pulled from the building by rescue crews in their first response, and 12 more who could walk independently were escorted to safety. Two more people were saved later, including a woman removed from the 4th floor, hours after authorities announced they would begin demolition.
Davenport police chief Jeff Bladel stated that transient people often entered the building, but there were no signs of anyone else being inside or missing.
Andrew Wold, owner of the building, issued a statement on Tuesday stating that “our thoughts are with our tenants.” Since then, he has not made a statement, and attempts to contact him, his firm, or a man who is believed to be his lawyer have failed.
Records from the county show that Davenport Hotel L.L.C. The building was acquired in 2021 for $4.2 million.
In recent years, tenants complained to the city about a variety of problems, which they claim were ignored by property management. These included no heat or hot running water for weeks, or even months, and mold growth on ceilings and in toilets. Records show that while city officials did try to address certain complaints and issued orders for individual apartments to vacate, no broader evacuation order was ever given.
On February 6, city officials found seven violations of the fire code. They ordered repairs. Records show that three weeks after they ordered repairs, building maintenance officials informed them “none of it was done.”
Rich Oswald confirmed on Thursday that Trishna Prishna, the city’s chief building official resigned as a result of the collapse.
Oswald stated that Pradhan visited the building in May and had erroneously “passed an inspection” in online permits.
He said that Pradhan tried to change the result of the inspection to “incomplete”, but due to a technical error, the outcome was listed as “failed”. Oswald stated that the “incomplete status” is correct since the repairs were not completed.
Later, the city clarified that Pradhan had resigned on his own accord and not as a result of termination.
Pradhan did not respond to calls or text messages immediately.
Assistant City Attorney Brian Heyer stated that he was unaware if the city had taken civil enforcement actions to protect residents earlier. The city filed a civil infraction only after the collapse, seeking a fine of $300 against Wold for failing maintain the structure in an appropriate manner. Heyer stated that Wold will have to pay the demolition costs.