FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – It took everyone by surprise — a 4-story parking garage at the Broward County Courthouse that is being demolished collapsed unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon.
Fortunately, no workers were trapped inside and only two people suffered very minor injuries.
The garage is being torn down to make way for a new courthouse. But what happened Wednesday was not part of the plan.
The collapse left behind piles of rubble and a flattened building.
“I saw the whole building collapsing,” said Victor Suarez, who works at a parking lot across the street. “Floor by floor, 3-2-1.”
Willie Banks, who runs a BBQ stand nearby, said “this whole entire parking lot just shuddered.”
It was a sight that sent people running for cover and running to help. Cellphone video from just after the collapse showed a cloud of dust emerging from the parking garage.
On the cellphone video people are heard wondering whether the garage was supposed to collapse.
Everyone nearby had one thought — “that there were still construction workers inside there,” Banks said.
Fortunately, there were not.
Geoff Bunnell, Senior Vice President for the construction company James A. Cummings Inc. said all the construction workers tearing down the garage were already outside the building.
“They anticipated a collapse of a portion of the garage so they were prepared for at least a partial collapse of the building,” Bunnell said.
But they were not expecting a complete collapse.
The collapse was contained. Two people suffered minor injuries but nothing worse. Dust covered people’s cars and it shut down SE 6th Street in front of the courthouse.
Two weeks ago county commissioners and Fort Lauderdale city leaders broke ground on the project that will eventually bring a new courthouse to Broward County. Demolishing the garage was one of the first phases of the project.
By Wednesday evening workers were cleaning up the debris and dirt left behind when the garage pancaked. Some wondered if the unexpected collapse may have been a happy accident.
“Maybe (it’s) a big bonus for them,” Banks said. “They got an 8-week job done in 48 hours.”
The Vice President from the Cummings construction company said the unexpected collapse may indeed speed up this portion of the project. The construction company says they are investigating why this happened.
It’s possible OSHA will be called in to also investigate.