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MD Parking Deck Collapse Kills Worker

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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Authorities are searching for the cause of a collapse of a 50,000-pound concrete section of a parking garage under construction in Maryland that killed one worker and injured another.

The two workers were the only ones inside the structure at Westfield Montgomery Mall, in Bethesda, MD, when it caved in shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday (May 23), as shoppers looked on in shock.

Worker thumbs up

Rescued from the rubble after more than four hours, a worker gives a thumbs up before being flown to an area hospital. He was reported in serious condition.

“It was loud," said shopper Bany Alavi. "I would say like a really loud bomb, just a really loud bang. I didn’t know ‘Did a bomb go off?’”

The collapsed section, about 40 feet long, occurred between the second and third levels of the garage, about 500 feet from a Macy's department store.

Delicate Rescue

Rescue personnel worked for more than four hours to stabilize the structure before they were able to free the second worker, said Assistant Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Graham.

“In the middle of the extraction, we did notice some shifting of the concrete,” Graham told reporters.

As a result, they paused the rescue and, with help from structural engineers, altered their approach. More than 100 people were involved in the rescue attempt, said Graham.


The project's general contractor was Whiting-Turner. It was not immediately known if that company or a subcontractor was working on the scene at the time.

The worker was hospitalized in serious condition, but was conscious and alert when rescued, even giving a thumbs-up to reporters at the scene before being flown to the Baltimore Shock Trauma Center.

The other worker was pronounced dead at the scene.

Neither the men nor their employer were immediately identified.

Investigation Underway

The investigation was just beginning. Maryland operates its own Occupational Safety and Health Administration plan. Such investigations typically take up to six months.

A Montgomery County official identified the general contractor on the project as Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner, which typically ranks among the top domestic general building contractors as reported by Engineering News Record (ENR).

It was not known, however, if Whiting-Turner or a subcontractor was working on the site when the accident occurred. An email to the company seeking information was not immediately returned.

Emergency crews worked for more than four hours to rescue one of the workers. The other perished at the scene.

Diane Schwartz Jones, director of Montgomery’s Department of Permitting Services, told the Washington Post that her office was reviewing the project's many permits and permit applications and could not immediately say whether any problems or citations had been issued during construction.

“This project has been around for a long time,” Jones told the newspaper. “There are a lot of permits for that site.”

The parking garage, just outside Washington, D.C., was in the midst of a major three-phase redevelopment project that involved putting a 16-screen movie theater on top of the parking garage.

Montgomery County approved the project in 2005.

A check of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration records Friday (May 24) showed no inspections or citations on the garage project in the last three years.

Garage Cave-ins

The collapse was the third fatal cave-in at a North American parking structure in the last year.

In June 2012, the rooftop parking deck of the Algo Centre Mall in Ontario caved in, killing two women and injuring dozens of shoppers who were inside the complex.

A public inquiry into that accident has been underway since March. The cause has been laid to chronic leaks that corroded structural steel below the hollow-core concrete decking.

Mall deck collapse Algo Centre Mall
wusa9.com (left); wikimedia commons (right)

Left: Thursday's collapse at the Westfield Montgomery Mall. Right: The 2012 rooftop deck collapse at the Algo Centre Mall.

In October, four construction workers perished when a nearly complete parking structure pancaked to the ground at Miami-Dade University West Campus. Five contractors have been cited in that accident.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Concrete; Fatalities; OSHA; Parking Garages; Retail

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/28/2013, 10:58 AM)

Not a good situation...but at least it didn't cascade and take more of the structure with it. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the killed worker and for the speedy recovery of the injured worker.

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