JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The top floor of a three-story parking garage at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside on King Street partially collapsed Tuesday afternoon, damaging multiple cars and leaving others precariously tilted on the edge of the collapse.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said during a 4 p.m. news conference there was “some kind of structural failure” in the parking garage around 12:15 p.m., but it wasn’t immediately clear what caused it.
For the next three hours, firefighters evacuated the area and searched the garage to see if anyone was trapped in the structure or in one of the 111 vehicles parked inside.
Powers said he is “pretty confident” that everyone is safe, but added that he can’t say for sure that everyone is accounted for.
Multiple cars could be seen under the partial pancake collapse at 1824 King St.
Powers said there are a couple of vehicles in the garage that were “mashed pretty flat” and the structure is not safe to enter.
The doctor’s building next to the garage was evacuated. And Powers said the buildings on either side of the parking structure would have to be temporarily condemned over concerns that the parking garage could collapse further.
“So to keep those people safe, we’re going to keep people out until the building owner can get a structural engineer out here and they can do something with the collapsed part of that building,” he said. “That is a very unstable parking garage right now. And we had some men and women from JSO and JFRD that really put themselves in harm’s way to make sure that people were safe and I just got to say thank you to both of those teams.”
JSO and JFRD said they used K9s and drones to survey the damage and track down tags of cars parked inside so they could account for the owners.
A witness told News4JAX he was checking in with the receptionist at about 12:15 p.m. when they heard a loud boom and felt the building shake. They evacuated the building about 10 minutes later, he said.
He said his car was still trapped on the first floor of the garage.
WATCH: Press play below for close-up video of garage collapse
Aerials from the scene showed a section of the third floor of the garage collapsed onto the second floor and at least one vehicle overturned on its side.
Another vehicle on the third floor was tilted precariously on the edge of the collapsed section.
Witness Velda Stokes told News4JAX there was a loud “Boom!” and when she came outside she saw the car on its side in the garage and “all hell broke loose.”
Witness Marcel said everyone was worried there might be people under the rubble.
“It was crazy. At first, we thought someone fell,” she said.
Another man described the scene saying he also felt the building shake and thought someone had run into the building.
“You only had one row of cars against the building and then just a drop-off where the drive lane is below. Everything dropped down,” he said.
WATCH: Press play below for a replay of Sky4 aerials from partial garage collapse
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the area of King Street and St. Johns Avenue is partially closed off but is expected to be reopened once the scene is cleared.
The St. Vincent’s Emergency Room entrance is closed, but hospital officials said the emergency room remained open the entire time and patients were taken to the ER from the hospital’s main entrance.
A spokesperson from Ascension St. Vincent’s was at the press news conference Thursday and said it is investigating the collapse but did not release much information, including the company that built the garage.
“First of all, we just want to say thank you to our first responders, for their immediate and their immediate action on this event and we appreciate them. We’re grateful that it seems no one was injured,” said Ascension Director of Marketing Gary Nevolis.
The hospital also issued a statement on Facebook:
“As you may be aware, the third level of the Chartrand Building parking garage at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside collapsed onto the second level. Representatives from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough investigation of the parking garage, and they believe no injuries occurred.
The Cardiology and Podiatry clinics located at 1824 King Street will be closed until further notice. The office will reach out to patients to reschedule their appointments at one of our other Ascension clinics. In addition, all other services at this location will also be closed until further notice.
The investigation is ongoing and we will provide more details at the appropriate time.”
Saunie Mclaughlin said she was shocked to hear about the collapse.
“My first impulse was how and the heck are they going to get those vehicles out of that building especially since there saying it’s compromised. So you think about the people,” she said.
She said she knew something was wrong when she saw dozens of emergency crews rushing past her.
“My immediate concern was the school West Riverside Elementary and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, please’ and then from there about time I crossed McDuff I saw the search and rescue vehicle,” Mclaughlin said.
And she is just thankful no one was hurt.