Published October 12, 2012
MIAMI – Crews planned to resume their search Friday morning for a man still missing two days after a parking garage collapsed at Miami Dade College's west campus, killing three construction workers. The missing man's family huddled nearby Thursday waiting for word as workers searched through piles of twisted steel and concrete. A portion of the five-story garage fell to the ground around noon Wednesday.
The search was expected to get under way around 8 a.m. Friday.
A police officer who spoke with relatives at the site Thursday said it could take days to find someone in the rubble. When family members asked whether survival was possible, the officer tried to offer encouragement. Afterward, though, several turned their backs to the rubble and sobbed.
"We break down and we console each other," said Steve Budhoo, who identified his brother as the missing worker. "We are just going through the motions."
Two workers were pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the collapse. A third man, Samuel Perez, 53, was pulled from the piles of wreckage early Thursday after being trapped for about 13 hours. He died a short time after being flown to a Miami hospital.
Perez and the two other confirmed fatalities -- Jose Calderon and Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza -- worked for subcontractors of the firm handling the construction of the five-story garage, Ajax Building Corp.
Ajax CEO Bill Byrne said the accident happened as crews were putting in a "spandrel beam" on the day of the collapse. The beam, a five-story, pre-cast concrete puzzle piece that was to attach to an elevator shaft, was still hanging from a crane near the wreckage Thursday.
Byrne said the project was utilizing pre-cast concrete construction, in which massive concrete pieces are created off-site and put into place by construction workers. Observers said the method has been around since about the 1950s and in recent decades has become the most common method of garage construction, largely because it is more cost-effective.
The cause of Wednesday's collapse hasn't been determined. Byrne said there was "no warning whatsoever."
The $22.5 million project began 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. No students were near the construction site when the structure fell.
The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week.