Survivor Describes Parking Garage Collapse As Crews Search For 4th Victim
DORAL (CBSMiami/AP) — For the first time, a construction worker who survived the horrifying crash of the parking garage at Miami Dade College’s west campus is speaking out, saying he jumped from the 2nd floor in order to save his life.
As 27-year-old Anthony Williams spoke with CBS4, Urban Search and Rescue crews resumed their search on Friday for a man still missing two days after the collapse.
“It sounded like an earthquake with the whole building falling down, like someone put a stick of dynamite in it,” said Williams, a laborer, who had just started work at the site on the day of the accident.
Williams told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I was thinking of my mom and my 9-year-old daughter. Right now, I am really shook up and terrified. I still have nightmare and dreams. I can still feel the building shaking.”
“I remember coming back after my lunch break and seeing a crack in the building on the 5th floor,” he said. “That was just ten minutes before this crash happened. I told someone about it. I heard a crash and saw the building was going down. I jumped from the 2nd floor and it saved my life.”
“I did that to get away,” he said. “It was my only chance. Otherwise I’d get caught and it would have been the end of my life. Right now my body is really sore. I jumped from that high a place. My legs and my toes hurt and my back hurts. I don’t think I’ll ever work in a garage again.”
Two attorneys are now representing Williams: Robert Rubenstein and DeWayne Terry.
They are considering a lawsuit based on what the investigation reveals and what OSHA says.
“We don’t know the cause,” Rubenstein told D’Oench. “We are going to find out. “We’re concerned for the families. Until we get information from OSHA and the investigation is complete, we won’t know whose fault this is. A lot of people died in this tragedy. This is a tragedy that should not have happened.”
William Byrne, the President of the Ajax Building Corporation that is the general contractor for the parking garage project, released a statement to CBS4 after Williams said he saw a crack in the building.
“While we appreciate all information and feedback,” he said in the statement, “it is extremely important to avoid speculation. This investigation needs to be based on facts and we have asked anyone who believes that they have pertinent information to provide that to OSHA. Our number one priority is to determine the cause of this tragic accident.”
Teams have been combing through the debris and rubble with giant cranes looking for Robert Budhoo.
The missing man’s family is waiting for word as workers search through piles of twisted steel and concrete. A portion of the five-story garage fell to the ground around noon Wednesday.
The firm handling the construction of the five-story garage is Ajax Building Corp. whose CEO Bill Byrne addressed the media Friday.
He confirmed there was an incident inside the garage on Monday or Tuesday where a crane bumped a column. However, Byrne said, the column did not sustain damage while the crane did. He said the crane was repaired, inspected, recertified and then put back into service inside the garage. Also according to Byrne, it is likely an adjacent garage and building may have sustained damage in the collapse.
“It is my understanding that there was an incident where the crane bumped a column,” he said. “It didn’t cause any damage to the column. The crane was repaired and inspected and it was rectified and the engineer looked at the column and deemed that it was perfectly safe.”
Williams took exception to that.
“If they knew that the crane hit the building, why would they send us out there?” he asked. “I noticed a little lightning bolt crack on top of the building.”
Byrne said OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is on site developing a plan to begin its investigation which will start once the recovery is complete.
According to Byrne, Ajax will work closely with OSHA to determine what caused the 5-story garage to come crashing down.
For the family of missing electrical worker Robert Buhdoo, every minute that goes by is precious time wasted.
“I’m tired of being quiet. Taking whatever they give me. I’m not going to do that. I need answers and I need them now,” Tasha Bagwandeen, Buhdoo’s daughter, said Friday. “It’s not fair. My dad is laying there somewhere hanging on for dear life. And they’re taking their own little time saying he’s not alive. They have no proof. He needs somebody to rescue him.”
But Miami-Dade Police and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Officials are calling this a recovery operation, not a rescue mission.
“I feel they’re taking their slow time because they feel he’s gone,” Buhdoo’s niece Stacey Wong said. “We don’t know if he’s gone. We have a family that believes in God and we believe that he’s alive.”
All Laurel Budhoo can do now is sit, wait, and wonder.
“Why did they call off the search? Is my husband not important?” Buhdoo asked.
The Miami-Dade Police Department has released a statement Friday evening. “The Miami-Dade Police Department along with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, continue to work diligently to recover the last victim. We must conduct the search as safely and efficiently as possible, which is a complicated task at this site, but necessary for the safety of the rescue workers”
For Budhoo’s daughter, Tasha, a statement is not enough.
“Three already lost their lives,” Bagwandeen said. “My dad is hanging on. They’re not doing the best they can. I know they can do better.”
Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief David Downey said it was highly unlikely anyone left in the rubble would still be alive.
Two workers were pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the collapse. A third man, Samuel Perez, 53, was pulled from the piles of wreckage early Thursday after being trapped for about 13 hours. He died a short time after being flown to a Miami hospital.
Perez and the two other confirmed fatalities — Jose Calderon and Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza — worked for subcontractors of the Ajax Building Corp.
Calderon’s widow Marisol told CBS4 that she and her husband have two children, ages 15 and 22, and that he had only been working at the site for the past two months.
“Someone must be held responsible for this,” she said. “Now we have no money and I need help from the community.”
Byrne said the accident happened as crews were putting in a “spandrel beam” on the day of the collapse. The beam, a five-story, pre-cast concrete puzzle piece that was to attach to an elevator shaft, was still hanging from a crane near the wreckage Thursday.
Byrne said the project was utilizing pre-cast concrete construction, in which massive concrete pieces are created off-site and put into place by construction workers. Observers said the method has been around since about the 1950s and in recent decades has become the most common method of garage construction, largely because it is more cost-effective.
The $22.5 million project began in February and the 1,855-space garage was to be finished in December, according to Ajax’s website. The first floor was to have classroom and office space. No students were near the construction site when the structure fell.
The school has made other arrangements so classes can resume:
Credit Classes for West Campus Students
Daytime classes, that take place Monday through Friday, will be shifted, beginning on Monday, October 15, to the North Campus. MDC is stretching every possible space at North, making use of labs, library, courtyards, exercise space, auditoriums and additional areas to accommodate the daytime West Campus classes. For those needing transportation to North Campus from the Doral area, the college has established a pick-up/drop-off point at the International Mall.
Evening classes and weekend classes will take place at Ronald Reagan Senior High School in Doral, beginning on Monday, October 15. Students attending the Reagan location must also park at International Mall where transportation to and from the high school will be provided. There is no parking at the high school.
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