9th survivor reportedly rescued in Iowa partial building collapse; demolition possibly delayed

May 30, 2023, 10:15 AM | Updated: 12:58 pm

A portion of a six-story apartment building broke away from the structure, exposing the residences ...

A portion of a six-story apartment building broke away from the structure, exposing the residences inside. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CNN) — After Iowa protesters decried the imminent demolition of a partially collapsed apartment building – saying some residents might still be trapped inside – Davenport city officials appeared to reconsider plans to topple the building Tuesday morning.

The apparent delay came after a ninth person was rescued Monday afternoon, the Quad-City Times reported, hours after city officials said rescue efforts had “transitioned to a recovery operation.”

The city is “continually evaluating the timing of the demolition” of the six-story building that partially collapsed Sunday afternoon, the city of Davenport said in an update Tuesday.

“Demolition is a multi-phase process that includes permitting and staging of equipment that will begin today,” the city said. “The timing of the physical demolition of the property is still be(ing) evaluated. The building remains structurally insecure and in imminent danger of collapse.”

The city said Monday afternoon that “demolition is expected to commence” Tuesday morning. But officials that night acknowledged “there are unaccounted individuals that were residents of the property” and Davenport police continue “to attempt communication with individuals that are unaccounted for.”

With the building’s outside wall stripped in a wide swath – exposing in one spot a bathtub and clothes still hanging in a closet – the collapse evoked memories of the 2021 condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, that killed 98 people. Just last month in New York City, a parking garage with property violations collapsed, killing one person and injuring at least five.

The cause of the Davenport collapse has not been determined, but the building’s owner had current permits for repairs to the exterior wall, officials said.

‘Get her out’

Davenport survivor Lisa Brooks had been unaccounted for since part of the building broke off and collapsed Sunday. Brooks called her daughter from the fourth floor of the building Monday, the Quad-City Times said, and family members rushed to alert firefighters and police officers on scene to her location.

The firefighters raised a bucket ladder to rescue Brooks, who waved out a window. The crowd cheered and chanted, “Get her out,” the newspaper reported.

Eight others were previously rescued from the crumbled building, and more than a dozen people managed to evacuate on their own, city officials had said. No deaths have been reported.

“After extensive rescue operations, no confirmed viable signs of life were noted,” the city said in a news release Monday night. “After multiple rescue evolutions over the course of the 24 hours since the incident, crews were unable to find any victims in need of rescue.”

Protesters gathered Monday night after news of the planned demolition, saying some residents could still be trapped, the Quad-City Times reported. Some held signs reading, “Who is in the rubble?” and “Find them first!!”

The owner has been served a demolition order

The owner of the property has been served with a demolition order, Davenport officials said Monday afternoon.

“The building remains in imminent danger of collapse with the condition on site continuing to worsen,” the city said in an update Monday night.

The “necessity to demolish this building stems specifically from our desire to maintain as much safety for the surrounding areas as possible,” said Rich Oswald, director of the city’s Development and Neighborhood Services.

City officials did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for more details about those unaccounted for, the demolition plan and the building.

Engineers have been considering how to handle the demolition in Davenport.

“It is the opinion of the structural engineer that the debris pile is currently contributing to the stability of the building and that removal could jeopardize or accelerate the inevitable collapse of the building,” the city said Monday night.

The damage occurred when the back section of the apartment building detached from the rest of the structure, Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said. The collapse Sunday triggered a large natural gas and water leak that required emergency crews to halt their search and rescue efforts until the utilities could be secured, he said.

Residents will not be allowed back into the building due to safety concerns, officials said.

Collapse was ‘like a bomb’

The collapse destroyed entire rooms of residents’ cherished possessions and left some with no place to live, they said.

Army veteran Fred Voorhis lost every piece of memorabilia from his 21-year military service, along with several essential medications, he told CNN affiliate KGAN. Voorhis was sleeping when the collapse occurred.

“I opened up the door to my apartment and there was daylight. It was supposed to be a hallway,” Voorhis told the affiliate. With his home ruined, he said he has no idea where he will live.

“There’s no backup plan,” he said.

Paul Stephenson, who was visiting a friend who lived in the building at the time of the collapse, told CNN affiliate KWQC that he was able to help his friend escape the building, but hasn’t seen him since emergency crews escorted residents away Sunday night.

The moment of collapse was “like a bomb” resonating throughout the building, he said.

“It was so dark in there. I just knew my way around,” Stephenson said, describing how he helped guide his friend from the rubble but had to leave his phone behind in the chaos.

“I’m still looking for my friend,” he said. “But I know he’s safe because I got him out.”

He said he knows others, however, who are nervously awaiting word from their loved ones.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson acknowledged the collapse is “devastating to the residents of this building and also to our community.”

“My prayers are with the families of those who remain unaccounted for and for a swift recovery for those who were injured,” he said.

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9th survivor reportedly rescued in Iowa partial building collapse; demolition possibly delayed