Workers were warned to ‘stay away’ from a ‘dangerous’ Iowa building just two days before it collapsed, leaving three people presumed dead and families praying for their loved ones.
Contractor Ryan Shaffer said he told people working near the building in Davenport they were “going to die” if they stayed there because he could see it creak and the masonry crumble.
Meanwhile, an engineers report written five days before the disaster warned that the entire face of the building was on the verge of collapse and called for urgent repairs.
The revelations sparked fury from families who questioned why residents weren’t evacuated before tragedy struck.
Three men, Ryan Hitchcock, Branden Colvin and Daniel Prien, are still missing after the building at 324 Main Street collapsed on Sunday.
A study of the building in Davenport by the firm Select Structural written just five days before the disaster found that the entire face of the building was on the verge of collapse. The survey was released by the city on Wednesday
Authorities are now looking for three missing men ahead of another collapse. Devina Colvin (right), wife of missing Branden Colvin, and her son Branden Jr. (sleeping left) are seen here in front of a barrier prohibiting entry to the building on Thursday as they await answers from city officials as to the fate of their loved one
At the de facto protest site on Thursday was Branden Jr.’s younger brother – seen here holding a sign protesting the city’s lack of action
Colvin’s youngest son was holding a sign saying “Where’s my dad?” in front of the remains of the site on Thursday.
City officials have come under fire from families for planning to demolish the building before everything was accounted for.
Meanwhile, Quanishia White-Berry – better known to her friends as Peach – had to have her leg amputated following a desperate rescue on Monday.
Davenport City Hall released hundreds of documents on Wednesday, including reports warning the building was falling apart, notices of violation, orders to vacate certain apartments and complaints from residents over the past three years.
Among the documents filed is an engineering report by firm Select Structural – written five days before the building collapsed – warning that urgent work was needed “to prevent the entire face of the building from collapsing”.
Shaffer, who worked at a nearby site, said he visited 324 Main Street two days before the disaster and – after seeing a pile of bricks on the ground – told workers around the site: “Stay away”. You will die.’
He said he returned the next day to see more bricks missing and ‘ran’ to a city cleaner working under the block and warned him: ‘It’s not safe. You have to get out of here.
Wold was cited for failing to maintain the structure in a safe and structurally sound condition, according to a court document filed by the city on Tuesday.
He is due in court on June 9.
Missing residents Branden Colvin (left) and Ryan Hitchcock (right) are presumed dead among the rubble, city officials said Thursday
Eight people have been rescued from the rubble since the Davenport block collapsed on Sunday
A photo taken by contractor Ryan Shaffer before the building collapse shows the crumbling facade of the building
Wold and the property management team released a statement that did not address the breach, but said “their thoughts and prayers are with our tenants and families during this difficult time.”
The damning records have left city officials scrambling to provide answers to families demanding how the building could have been allowed to collapse while residents were still living there.
At a press conference on Thursday, the city’s mayor, Mike Matson, said: ‘I completely understand their anger. I completely understand their concern. I have the same anger and concern.
“We will continue to investigate.”
Rich Oswald, director of development and neighborhood services for Davenport, said a building inspector who mistakenly “succeeded” in recent repairs to the complex has now quit.
Oswald said the work should have been marked “incomplete”, explaining that although it was an “administrative” error, the “magnitude of the situation in the error that was made” meant that the official had left his post.
Rescue efforts have removed eight people from the building since Sunday, but the operation was now all about “recovery,” Davenport Police Chief Jeffery E. Bladel said Thursday.
He said there was a “high probability” that the three missing men were “in this collapsed space and all the information given to us is that the space is not sustainable for life”.
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
In the days following the collapse, more than 100 residents gathered at the site to protest the demolition of the unstable building – which remains in the air as Colvin and Hitchock remain missing.
Families of the missing are at odds over whether the building should be demolished.
Officials say the block is “still moving” and is “hazardous”, making recovery operations dangerous and increasing the likelihood of other parts of the building collapsing and endangering lives.
Demolition plans for the building, originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, are on hold.
“We’re not close to doing that right now,” Mayor Matson said. “We are working on a schedule. We turn to experts who have particular expertise to remove it (in) a dignified and respectful manner.
Ryan Hitchcock’s family say they have accepted the likelihood that he is dead and support the city’s plans to demolish the rest of the building to prevent further casualties.
Relative Amy Anderson said at a press conference on Tuesday: ‘Ryan wouldn’t want anyone else to put his life on the line.
I don’t rule out that he could miraculously be trapped under there.
“But we don’t want to see any more families losing their lives or anyone else getting hurt trying to clear this rubble and knock anything down.”
But Branden Colvin’s family disagrees.
“You know there are still people missing, but you want to demolish the building. What sense does that have? Colvin’s cousin, Preston McDowell, said CNN. “They don’t give us any answers. I just don’t understand.