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Too Early To Tell What Caused Garage Collapse

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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DORAL (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade police and Fire Rescue, along with members of several other county agencies, gathered on Thursday to come up with a plan as to how they were going to handle the investigation into what caused the partial collapse of a five-story parking garage which was under construction on the West Campus of Miami-Dade College.

“We have absolutely no idea what caused this accident,” said William Byrne, CEO of the Ajax Building Corp., which is the general contractor for the $22.5 million. “This doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve encountered in my career and no, we’ve not had an accident of this kind in any of our projects.”

Byrne said it’s too early to speculate what triggered the collapse which took the lives of three men and injured seven others. One man is still missing.  The accident happened without warning, according to Byrne.

Click Here for more on recovery efforts.

Some people at the site have suggested to CBS4 that the collapse occurred as a spandrel beam (a beam extending from column to column and carries a wall load) was being moved into place.

“That crane was hooked to that piece when the collapse happened,” said Byron.

He quickly added that it was too soon to tell.

The garage was set to be completed in December. As for the rest of the structure, “We would expect that it would not be safe until we have the opportunity to get engineers in there and look at it,” said Byrne.

That won’t happen until Miami-Dade police release the site back to Miami-Dade College following the completion of their death investigation.

“The first order of business is to make sure everything is safe, second is to get Miami-Dade College back in business and third would be remove the debris and reconstruction, said Byrne.

Byrne said the construction plans for the project had been approved and the construction work was inspected regularly; a process performed by Miami-Dade College.

“By state statute, we have a self permitting process and a rigorous inspection process,” said college spokesman Juan Mendietta. “In the 52 years of the college, we’ve never had a problem at all, not even a slight blemish until now.”

As for the college building next to garage, Mendietta said it may have also sustained damage in the collapse which is not readily visible.

“Sometimes a hairline crack here or there or damage unseen could compromise the safety of the building,” said Mendietta.

The campus will remain closed until Monday.

Built in 2008, the West Campus is the newest in the Miami-Dade College system. It serves over 8,000 students.

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