Garage Collapse Focus Turns To Cause, Future

Inspectors Descend On Site; Injured, Idled Workers Also Seek Answers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the family of the one man who died in last week's parking-garage collapse and others injured in the incident recover, officials turn their attention to what caused the six-story structure to collapse as two dozen workers were pouring concrete on the top floor.

Half of the partially built garage under construction for the Berkman Plaza II condominium tower collapsed just before 6 a.m. Thursday.

After rescuers spent more than two days searching the pile of concrete and twisted metal more than 20 feet high, the site is now turned over to inspectors with the National Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the primary contractor, Choate Construction.

"We don't know whether it was (a) design problem (or) a construction problem. We have no idea," said Tom Goldsbury of Jacksonville's building department. "It's going to take months, probably, before we know."

A spokesman from OSHA told Channel 4's Jim Piggott that the agency would not make any statement until its investigation is complete -- sometime next year.

If OSHA finds any violations or safety infractions, they could issue citations.

Goldsbury said the city will not be involved in the process. All of the inspections done on the garage during construction were by private firms hired by the contractor, which is state law on large projects.

The city just keeps the records to make sure the inspections have taken place.

"I think it helps, because you have people that are much more technically involved and educated getting involved in these multi-story buildings," Goldsbury said. "A building department does not have the staff that are qualified as deeply as those engineers."

Choate Construction President William Millard Choate issued the following statement on Saturday afternoon: "I am thankful for the outpouring of concern and offers of help from many of our Choate teammates and clients. We will continue to support our personnel and the investigation."

The Victims Before dawn on Saturday -- nearly 48 hours into a massive rescue effort -- the body of Willie Edwards III was found under a pile of cement.

Of the 23 other people on the job site when the garage collapsed, 18 of them were transported to various hospitals.

More than half of those injured were treated and released within 24 hours, but five had more serious injuries and are told by doctores they face a long road to recovery.

Under worker's compensation rules, their employer will pay wages and medical bills. Attorneys told Channel 4 that collecting other damages would be difficult unless the government finds negligence on the job site.

"There must be a known danger that employer is aware of, that he conceals and the employee does not know about," attorney Eddie Farrah said.

The other scenario that might allow injured workers to collect damages would be if the accident was caused by a third-party doing other work in the building at the time.

In addition to the concrete workers, dozens of other employees working on the Berkman Tower construction project next door were also idled as well.

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