MIAMI – A section of a parking garage under construction at a community college collapsed Wednesday, killing two people and trapping two others in the rubble, officials said. One worker was rescued amid the debris, but authorities said it could be days before they are able to get the other one out. At least one other was unaccounted for.
Eight workers were hurt when the roof of the five-story concrete garage fell, creating a pancake-style collapse on the campus of Miami-Dade College, officials said.
"It was a floor upon floor, collapsing all the way down to the ground floor," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Capt. Louie Fernandez said. Some workers were taken or brought themselves to the hospital, while others were treated on the scene and sent home.
The trapped worker was pinned inside a vehicle. He was receiving oxygen, had an IV inserted into him and was being treated by a physician and a paramedic. Workers were using a crane to try to free him and had the Jaws of Life and hydraulic equipment on site.
"The way he's pinned, we are unable to determine the full extent of his injuries," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Lt. Arnold Piedrahita Jr. said late Wednesday, without elaborating. Piedrahita said workers would remain on site all night if necessary. Earlier in the day, authorities said it could be days before they could free the worker.
"It's an inch-by-inch type of thing. Very slow," Piedrahita said. "There is a big slab of concrete that is crushing where he is. They may have to move that slightly because you don't want to hurt him."
Asked if the worker was expected to survive, Piedrahita responded: "He's not in a good predicament. But he's talking."
Dogs, firefighters and other people in hard hats walked over piles of concrete, plywood and metal to look for other possible victims. Authorities said at least one worker was still unaccounted for, and a man at the scene who declined to identify himself said he believed his brother, who was working at the garage at the time of the collapse, was still inside somewhere.
Victoria Buczynski of Miami said she saw the collapse while she was working at Gurkha Cigars across the street from the construction site at the Miami-Dade College.
"It fell to the ground like a house of cards," Buczynski said. "The construction workers started running out, screaming. It was loud. Our entire building shook."
No students were in the area at the time. The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week. Investigators planned to pick through the rubble to see what caused the garage to crumble.
"We just know that the roof collapsed," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Griselle Marino said.
William P. Byrne, president and chief executive officer of the garage contractor, Ajax Building Corp., said an internal review was being launched to determine the cause. Byrne said the company would embrace "any additional protocols, policies and procedures that will enhance and ensure the continued priority of safety."
Marino said three people were initially trapped in the rubble, including the man who died. Seven of the injured went to the hospital and an eighth was treated at the scene.
One of the rescued workers was pulled out from under a steal beam by four firefighters. His face and hands were bloody and he was put on a stretcher and carried away, according to a video shot by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue and provided to The Associated Press.
Ground was broken on the $22.5 million project in February, and the 1,855-space garage was to be finished in December, according to Ajax's website.
The first floor was to have classroom and office space. The structure is next to the college's main office building and nestled among other campus buildings.
The college serves about 8,000 students and is one of several campuses in the Miami-Dade College system. This campus opened in 2006.
The identity of the worker who died was not immediately released.