A building collapse in Brooklyn, New York, trapped a man who was in the structure scavenging for materials. Rescuers worked frantically to help the man, concerned that another wall might collapse on them while they freed him. The building itself was under an emergency demolition order due to the high risk of hazards to the public. The collapse is a reminder that even when a structure is apparently vacant, there is a risk to citizens of the building collapsing and causing harm.
Dozens of Rescuers Worked to Free Man from Crumbled New York Building
The as-yet-unnamed victim was a scavenger who reportedly snuck onto the demolition site to search for building materials on February 27, 2018. As he made his way through the building’s first floor at 463 Rutland Road, the floor collapsed underneath him, throwing him to the basement and trapping him. According to reports, the man was stuck in debris up to his waist, 10-feet below ground level.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics arrived to rescue the man and worked as quickly as they could due to concerns a wall would cave in on them, too. Ultimately, rescuers cut through a beam that trapped the man and dug him out by hand.
“It was a very dangerous operation,” said FDNY Special Operations Deputy Assistant Chief John Esposito. “They had to shore up that side wall to make sure that wall would not collapse. It’s a very old building, in bad shape. And we believe that the floor joist collapsed under him, while he was in there.”
The victim went to Kings County Hospital for treatment of critical, but non-life-threatening injuries. Officials initially identified him as a construction worker, but later noted he was a scavenger who entered the site after construction workers left. At least one witness speculated the man was on the site searching for scrap metal.
“I didn’t want to see him, because I hate to know that happened to someone,” said a worker identified as Vincent. “He’s not supposed to be here. He just came by to pick up the scrap metal and go.”
Structure Had “Numerous” Violations Before Brooklyn Structural Collapse
According to information from the Department of Buildings, the building was vacant but had up to 19 violations and was under an emergency order for demolition. One violation involved failure to maintain the structure after a previous collapse, which reportedly occurred in November. Other violations included working without a permit and failure to safeguard workers and property.
Nearby residents said they were concerned that the building would collapse with someone inside it.
“Last week, I saw [people] working on it and I knew it was going to cave in because the building was abandoned for years,” said Carol Thomas.
The building was reportedly 100 years old and may have housed a dance club. A 2006 fire resulted in the building being vacant for more than a decade. In 2011 a neighboring church reportedly bought the structure, but had not put the building to use. Recently, someone filed a complaint about the building’s lack of maintenance.
An article at Patch.com identifies the structure’s owner as the Church of the God of Prophesy, an Evangelical church. No one from the Church of the God of Prophesy would comment on the recent Brooklyn structure failure.
“I haven’t seen anything,” said an unnamed neighbor. “It’s been pretty quiet, there haven’t been people going in or out, as far as I’m concerned. If it was abandoned and someone was there without permission, that’s not safe.”
The Department of Buildings is investigating the Brooklyn structural collapse.
Building Collapse and Structural Failure Lawyers
Building owners have a responsibility to maintain their buildings so they are safe for the public, even if those buildings are vacant or have not been used in years. Buildings under demolition are susceptible to unintended collapse, especially if the demolition is not being carried out properly, which can result in load-bearing walls being weakened or a roof caving in. In such situations, anyone inside the building—whether that is a demolition or construction worker, or a member of the public—could be at risk of serious harm.
There can be many causes of a building collapse, including lack of proper maintenance, unsafe demolition, and faulty construction. When a structure fails, it is important that all possible factors in the collapse are investigated to determine who is responsible for any harm caused. This is true whether the collapse involves an entire building, a floor in a building or a portion of the structure, such as a balcony or platform.
Attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman are experienced at investigating structural failures and advocating for those affected by building collapses. Our attorneys are available to answer your questions and discuss your options.