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Death Toll Climbs in FL Collapse

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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As sadly expected, recovery workers on the scene of a building collapse at Miami Dade College have found another victim in the wreckage, bringing the death toll in the accident to four.

Family members identified the victim as Jamaican-born electrician Robert Budhoo, 53, but authorities said positive identification would not be possible until the body was removed. Recovery may take several days, as the rubble is highly unstable, authorities said.

 The five-story, $22.5 million garage and classroom structure was near completion when it collapsed Wednesday (Oct. 10).

  NBC Chicago

The five-story, $22.5 million garage and classroom structure was near completion when it collapsed.

The body was recovered Monday (Oct. 15). Family members and friends of Budhoo had kept a vigil since the accident, awaiting word on his fate.

All other victims are believed to be accounted for.

‘Family Man’

Budhoo’s sister-in-law told a Jamaican newspaper that Budhoo was devoted to his family and worked hard.

“Robert is a family man; the family is close knit,” said Sevina Gidheri-Singh. “He and my sister have been together since she was 16, and they have never been separated since. They have kids together; they do everything together. He has never left out his family.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is leading the investigation into the disaster. That inquiry is expected to take months.

‘House of Cards’

The $22.5 million, 1,855-space structure, slated to open in December, was under construction when it collapsed without warning last Wednesday (Oct. 10), sending workers running for their lives.

Florida general contractor Ajax Building Corp. is building the pre-cast concrete structure, which was designed by Harvard Jolly Architecture, of St. Petersburg. The facility is designed to have classroom and office space on the ground floor, with parking on five levels above. An outdoor amphitheater was incorporated into the design.

 Laurel Budhoo (right) and other family members had waited at the scene of the accident for days for word of Budhoo’s husband, Robert (left). Family members said his body was found Monday.
Laurel Budhoo (right) and other family members had waited at the scene of the accident for days for word of Budhoo’s husband, Robert (left). Family members said his body was found Monday.

A witness across the street said the structure pancaked from the top level down “like a house of cards.”

Reports indicated that as many as 17 workers—including painters, welders, and electricians—were working on the site that day.

3 Killed, 9 Injured

Two workers, Jose Calderon and Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, were found dead in the wreckage shortly after the collapse.

Rescuers worked 13 hours to free a third worker, Samuel Perez, 53. Perez’s legs had to be amputated to free him from the twisted steel and concrete, and he died at a hospital early Thursday morning.

Nine other workers were believed to be injured. One worker jumped from the second floor to save his life. The “horrifying incident” came the first day on the job for Anthony Williams, 27.

Classes on the campus were moved offsite temporarily.

Crane Incident Reported

Ajax Building Corp. president William P. Byrne told reporters Friday (Oct. 12) that a crane on the project had “bumped a column” two days before the collapse.

“It didn’t cause any damage to the column,” Byrne said. “The crane was repaired and inspected, and it was rectified and the engineer looked at the column and deemed that it was perfectly safe.”

Ajax, founded in 1958, is a third-generation, family-owned company. The company has issued several statements since the collapse, thanking the responders, expressing the company’s condolences, and pledging transparency in the investigation.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Commercial contractors; Concrete; Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; Parking Garages; Steel; Subcontractors

Comment from M. Halliwell, (10/17/2012, 11:28 AM)

My condolences go out to the families of the victims of this tragedy. Hopefully OSHA and the forensic engineering team will be able to figure out what happened and we can all learn from whatever went wrong in this instance. The crane incident will obviously be of interest, but given the accounts of the structure coming down "like a house of cards"...a description that smacks of a possible cascade failure...I suspect they will also look at how the panels were put in on the top floor(s). Please keep us informed about the findings on this one.

Comment from Franklin Watt, (10/17/2012, 7:02 PM)

My condolences to the families of the dead person especially to my Jamaican family.

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