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2 likely in wreckage from Iowa apartment collapse


DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Five residents of a six-story apartment building that partially collapsed in eastern Iowa remained missing on Tuesday, and authorities feared at least two of them may stuck in rubble too dangerous to search.

The other three missing residents are not believed to have been in the building when it began to collapse shortly after Sunday night, state Rep. Monica Kurth said. Mayor Mike Matson confirmed at a press conference that not all residents were being considered.

A group of protesters held signs and chanted near the building on Tuesday morning, saying the city was moving too quickly toward tearing down the 116-year-old brick and steel structure. Built as a hotel, it had more recently been used as apartments and tenants had been allowed to stay even when bricks started falling from the building.

After the partial collapse, the city had announced plans to start demolishing the unstable remains of the structure as early as Tuesday morning, but they delayed after a woman was found Monday night.

Officials now say an immediate demolition was never planned, but they wanted to quickly organize the site for dismantling. The woman’s rescue prompted officials to see if it was safe to enter and ensure others were not inside. But it’s extremely difficult when the building could collapse at any moment, they said.

“It could be a resting place for some of the missing,” Matson said. The city is trying to figure out how to bring down what remains of the building while preserving the dignity of those who may have been killed, he said.

Later Tuesday, there was no indication authorities were conducting a search. About 50 people had gathered outside a perimeter of fences and police tape. Children drew chalk hearts on the sidewalk and a candlelight vigil included five minutes of silence in honor of the five people still missing.

Fire Marshal James Morris said no explosives will be used on the building, which is in close proximity to other structures and is “unstable and continuing to deteriorate”. Removing the debris that supports the rest of the building could cause another collapse, he said.

“We are very sympathetic to the possibility that there are two people” still inside, Morris said while fighting back tears.

He said there will be an investigation into the causes of the collapse, but it is unclear so far whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

Officials have sought to explain why Fire Chief Michael Carlsten said Monday morning that “no known individuals are trapped.” The city had also released a statement saying the owner had received a demolition order Monday and the process would begin Tuesday morning.

The discovery of another survivor Monday night, rescued by ladder truck from a fourth-story window, prompted the city to reassess, they said Tuesday. The woman was only brought to safety after she jumped a mosquito net and waved to the people gathered below.

“We had no indication from any of the responders we had, any of the dogs, any of the tools at the time” that there was anyone else alive in the building, Morris said.

Patricia Brooks said her sister, Lisa, tried to leave the building but rushed to where she thought she could find the safest shelter – in her bathtub. Brooks spoke with her sister when she was being assessed in hospital after being rescued from a window on the side of the building which was still standing.

“It was just exhausting and a nightmare,” Chicago resident Patricia Brooks said of the roughly 24 hours leading up to Lisa’s rescue.

The family have pleaded with police and city officials to find Lisa at the apartment starting Sunday, her daughter Porshia Brooks said.

“They would have done a sweep and said they didn’t find anyone,” said Porshia Brooks of Moline, Illinois. “They are trying to demolish the building without doing a proper sweep.”

On Tuesday, protesters held up signs reading “Find them first” and “Who’s in the rubble?” Some used a megaphone to shout the names of residents. The building had 53 tenants in about 80 units, the police chief said.

City officials said rescue crews escorted 12 people out of the building shortly after a central section collapsed around 5 p.m. Sunday and rescued several others, including a person who had been put in security on Sunday night.

“There was a lot of screaming, a lot of screaming, a lot of people saying ‘Help!’ when the building collapsed,” Tadd Mashovec, a resident of the building, told KCCI-TV. “But it didn’t last, and two or three minutes, then the whole neighborhood was silent.”

It is unclear what caused the collapse, which left a gaping hole in the center of what was once the Davenport Hotel, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Built in 1907, the structure had been renovated into a mixed-use residential and commercial building.

The building was designed so that the exterior brickwork and steel frame support each other, so loss of exterior brickwork can threaten the integrity of the building, said structural engineer Larry Sandhaas.

“When you lose the brick, you lose the stability of the building,” Sandhaas said.

Construction workers had made interior and exterior repairs over the past few months, according to city records. Reports of falling bricks were part of that work, said Rich Oswald, director of development and neighborhood services for the city.

The fire marshal said Tuesday that a structural engineer hired by the owner determined the building was safe enough to remain occupied during repairs.

Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation activating assistance programs for homeless residents. After the demolition order, residents were prevented from returning indoors to collect their belongings due to the instability.

Davenport Hotel, LLC, owned by Andrew Wold, acquired the building in 2021 in a $4.2 million real estate deal, according to county records.

The city declared the building a nuisance in May 2022 “due to numerous solid waste violations” involving its overflowing dumpster, according to court records.

Wold did not dispute the nuisance claim, and inspectors noted similar issues 19 times between that date and March 2023, records show. The city took civil enforcement action and a judge ordered Wold to pay a $4,500 fine after he failed to appear in court.

On Tuesday, the city filed a new lawsuit against Wold, saying he failed to keep the property “in a safe, sanitary and structurally sound condition” before the collapse. The City is asking for a fine of $3,000.

City inspectors reviewed ongoing repairs three days before the collapse, records show. Plans called for 100 feet of brick to be replaced to comply with city code starting May 25, and an interior cinder block wall with rebar and grout was partially installed last week, according to an online inspection. and release notes.

“Wall bracing will be installed per engineer’s design,” the notes say. “The engineer will stop periodically to make sure the work is being done according to his design. The city inspector will stop periodically to see progress.

The collapse came as no surprise to former resident Schlaan Murray, who told The Associated Press his year-long stay there was “a nightmare”.

Murray, 46, moved into his apartment in February 2022 and almost immediately had heating, air conditioning and bathroom plumbing issues. Calls to the management company were rarely answered, and even if workers stopped, “they didn’t fix things, they just patched things up,” he said.

He wonders how the building, where he said he didn’t even want to bring his children, passed the inspections. He moved a month before the end of his lease in March.

“It was awful,” Murray said.


McFetridge and Fingerhut reported from Des Moines. Associated Press contributors include Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, and Beatrice Dupuy in New York.

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