The woman who survived almost 10 hours trapped under a refrigerator when the apartment building she was in collapsed is speaking out about her ordeal. She reportedly lived in the building a mere two weeks before the structure collapsed, but spent months in the hospital and still requires treatment for her injuries. The owner of the building, meanwhile, faces citations linked to the structural failure. Luckily no one died in this building collapse, though the situation is a reminder of the devastation that can occur when structures fail.
Woman Was Trapped by Structural Failure for Nearly 10 Hours
Thirty seven-year-old Megan Angelone says she remembers everything about that terrible ordeal, from getting up to make coffee in the morning, to the first time the apartment shook, to being left alone when rescuers had to leave the building for fear of another collapse.
At around 9:05 a.m. on July 12, 2017, in Washington, Pennsylvania, Angelone got up to make coffee.
“The apartment shook and I looked at my boyfriend,” Angelone said. “And then the second time it shook, I fell back and then down.”
Angelone was trapped by the downstairs neighbor’s refrigerator with a ceiling fan stuck in her side. She said she tried to escape by throwing food out of the refrigerator to lighten it enough that rescue crews could help her.
More than 100 rescuers, including firefighters, EMTs and other crews worked to free Angelone from under the refrigerator. Due to Angelone’s location, a hole had to be cut into a wall to free her, but cutting the hole had to be done carefully so as not to cause a further collapse of the building.
Part-way through the rescue, first responders evacuated the rescuers out of fear of another building collapse, leaving Angelone on her own.
“That to me was the worst experience of the whole thing being in there alone,” Angelone said. “That dead silence and not knowing if someone was going to come back. But they did—thank God.”
Using hydraulic tools and small airbags, rescuers were finally able to free Angelone after about 10 hours, to cheers from the crowd that gathered outside the building. Although the refrigerator trapped her, Angelone might have been saved by the refrigerator, which prevented two of the building’s floors from crushing her.
“She was very calm and speaking very clearly, I can’t believe she is alive,” Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates said.
Long Road to Recovery After Washington, Pennsylvania Apartment Building Collapse
After she was freed, Angelone was taken to the hospital, where she stayed until September 28. Recounting her ordeal, Angelone’s brother told reporters she could have lost her legs in the building failure.
“They have to cut her to relieve pressure from her legs,” Matthew Angelone said. “If it was any longer she’d have lost her legs.”
Angelone suffered a broken collarbone and extensive nerve damage, which means she cannot walk until the nerve damage has healed. She undergoes regular physical therapy and cannot work. Despite the daily pain and lack of mobility, Angelone says she refuses to let herself be sad because she is still alive and able to be with her two sons, who are ages eight and 10.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise funds for Angelone. The page notes that in addition to being trapped, Angelone lost all her possessions when the building collapsed.
Building Owner Faces Citations over Structural Collapse
Mark Russo, the owner of the building involved in the collapse, is scheduled to appear in court on October 31 for citations related to the collapse. Russo previously faced citations from Municipal Code Enforcement in March 2017 related to bricks falling off the building and an overflowing dumpster. If he were fined for the building collapse, Russo would not be the first person to face penalties for a building failure.
Washington Public Safety Director Monda Williams said the owner of the building was cited many times while a code enforcement officer called it a nuisance property.
The building was 117 years old and sat at 15 N. Main St. and East Beau Street. There were eight units, including a barbershop on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors.
Susan Vandevender, who had an apartment on the third floor but decided to move out two months before the collapse, said she repeatedly complained about problems with the building.
“You could see there were some fixtures and stuff cracking,” Vandevender said. But her concerns were dismissed.
“For many years we’ve been dealing with this problem,” said Ken Westcott, city councilman. “He’s always promised to make repairs to this building, and unfortunately this is what’s happened. It’s very frustrating.”