Iowa apartment building collapses; no deaths reported

Part of the brick building in Davenport, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Rock Island, Ill. crashed to the ground Sunday. Davenport’s mayor said firefighters risked their lives to rush inside and rescue residents.

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Emergency crews work the scene of a partial apartment building collapse Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa.

Emergency crews work the scene of a partial apartment building collapse on Sunday in Davenport, Iowa.

Nikos Frazier/Quad City Times, distributed by the Associated Press

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Firefighters and other first responders are being credited with saving lives — at great risk to their own safety — after a six-story apartment building in Iowa partially collapsed, authorities said Monday.

There were no confirmed fatalities and no one was known to be trapped the morning after a section of brick building in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport crashed to the ground. Mayor Mike Matson said members of the Davenport Fire Department and others went “literally into an unsafe building” trying to rescue residents.

“When something like this happens here, and tragedy strikes, our responders immediately do their work and their job and I can’t thank them enough,” Matson said at a news conference Monday.

Fire Chief Michael Carlsten said workers searched for survivors throughout the night and rescued one person from the six-story building — bringing the total number of people rescued by fire officials to eight. An additional 12 people were escorted out by fire crews when they first responded to the collapse Sunday evening.

“No known individuals are trapped in that facility,” Carlsten said. Authorities have not released how many people were injured or provided details on the nature of their injuries. Carlsten did say that the person who was rescued overnight was in the hospital.

Rescue teams, including K-9 units, were inside the building all night.

Rescuers were called to the scene shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. Carlsten said the back of the apartment complex collapsed and had separated from the building, which houses apartments on the upper floors and businesses on the ground level.

Authorities found a gas leak after the collapse, Carlsten said, while water also had leaked throughout the floors of the structure.

The stability of the building was still a concern.

Carlsten said officials were “currently finishing the rescue phase of our operation and soon it will become a recovery operation.”

The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.

Rich Oswald, City of Davenport director of development and neighborhood services, said at a news conference Sunday that work was being done on the building’s exterior at the time of the collapse.

Reports of bricks falling from the building earlier this week were part of that work and the building’s owner had a permit for the project, Oswald said.

The Quad-City Times reported Robert Robinson, a second-floor resident, had gone outside and returned as alarms went off in the building.

“When we started to go back in the lights went out,” he told the newspaper. “All of a sudden everybody started running out saying the building collapsed. I’m glad we came down when we did.”

Robinson and his girlfriend were able to take the elevator down just in time, he said.

“This is horrible,” he said. “We don’t have anywhere to go. Nothing to eat.”

Tadd Machovec, a Davenport contractor, told the newspaper he was inside putting up a support beam when the building came down.

Some people in the area said the building has had problems. City officials said Sunday that they had several complaints from residents about needed repairs.

“The tenants told us the building was going to collapse,” said Jennifer Smith, co-owner of Fourth Street Nutrition, which moved into the building this winter.

“It sounds bad, but we have been calling the city and giving complaints since December. Our bathroom caved in December,” she said.

Smith said water damage has been apparent since they moved into their space. Her fellow co-owner, Deonte Mack, said fire crews were in the building as recently as Thursday for an inspection.

The Quad-City Times reported the building is owned by Andrew Wold. A working phone number for Wold was not immediately available Sunday night and attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

The newspaper reported nearly 20 permits were filed in 2022 for building repairs, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues, according to the county assessor’s office.

There were 84 units in the building, a mixture of residential and commercial spaces, the mayor said.

In June 2021, 98 people died when a high-rise condominium near Miami Beach collapsed in the middle of the night.

The Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other possible factors for the collapse include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage caused by saltwater intrusion.

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