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Three bodies recovered in Iowa building collapse; lawsuit accuses city and owners of negligence

Jun 5, 2023, 10:08 AM

Three search and rescue workers and a dog approach the site of a building collapse in Davenport, Io...

Three search and rescue workers and a dog approach the site of a building collapse in Davenport, Iowa, during a search, Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Grace Kinnicutt/Quad City Times via AP)

(Grace Kinnicutt/Quad City Times via AP)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The bodies of three men have been removed from the site of a collapsed six-story apartment building, the police chief in Davenport, Iowa, announced Monday.

“We don’t have any other information at this time that there are any additional people missing,” Chief Jeff Bladel said.

One of the residents injured in the collapse of an apartment building sued the city of Davenport and the building’s current and former owners on Monday, alleging they knew of the deteriorating conditions and failed to warn residents of the risk.

The complaint filed on behalf of Dayna Feuerbach alleges multiple counts of negligence and seeks unspecified damages. It also notes that additional lawsuits are likely.

“The city had warning after warning,” attorney Jeffrey Goodman said in an interview with The Associated Press. He called it a common trend in major structural collapses he’s seen. “They had the responsibility to make sure that the safety of the citizens comes first. It is very clear that the city of Davenport didn’t do that.”

Branden Colvin Sr.’s body was recovered Saturday. The body of Ryan Hitchcock was recovered Sunday and Daniel Prien early Monday. The discoveries came after authorities announced that the search for survivors had been completed, with attention turning to shoring up the remaining structure so recovery efforts could begin.

City officials had said earlier that Colvin, 42; Hitchcock, 51; and Prien, 60; had “high probability of being home at the time of the collapse.” Searching for them has proven to be extremely dangerous. The remains of the six-story apartment building were constantly in motion in the first 24 to 36 hours after it collapsed on May 28, putting rescuers at great risk.

“We are doing the best we can to balance the building conditions and the safety of our responders,” Fire Chief Mike Carlsten told reporters. He said conditions have forced a response that may take “days and weeks” instead of what ideally would have been minutes or hours.

Mayor Mike Matson said last week that any complaints about the rescue and recovery process should be directed at him, not first responders.

Unresolved questions include why neither the owner nor city officials warned residents about potential danger. A structural engineer’s report issued days before the collapse indicated a wall of the century-old building was at imminent risk of crumbling.

Documents released by the city show that city officials and the building’s owner had been warned for months that parts of the building were unstable.

Tenants also complained to the city in recent years about a host of problems they say were ignored by property managers, including no heat or hot water for weeks or even months at a time, as well as mold and water leakage from ceilings and toilets. While city officials tried to address some complaints and gave vacate orders to individual apartments, a broader evacuation was never ordered, records show.

Current and former residents told The Associated Press about interior cracks on the wall that ultimately collapsed that were reported to building management. One woman whose apartment ended up in a huge pile of rubble had to have her leg amputated in order to be rescued.

Andrew Wold, the building’s owner, released a statement dated May 30 saying “our thoughts and prayers are with our tenants.” He has made no statement since then, and efforts to reach him, his company and a man believed to be his attorney have been unsuccessful. The mayor and other officials say they have had no contact with the owner since the collapse.

County records show Davenport Hotel L.L.C. acquired the building in a 2021 deal worth $4.2 million.

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Three bodies recovered in Iowa building collapse; lawsuit accuses city and owners of negligence