Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Determining Cause Could Take Months; OSHA Begins Its Probe as City Reports Show That Cracks Had Been Found

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Determining Cause Could Take Months; OSHA Begins Its Probe as City Reports Show That Cracks Had Been Found

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

A slow search for the cause of Thursday morning's garage collapse in downtown Jacksonville started while rescuers still were combing through rubble.

Before noon, investigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration interviewed construction workers, including an uncle of Willie "L.B." Edwards III, the only worker not seen since the devastation at Berkman Plaza 2 on East Bay Street.

It could be months before OSHA settles on a cause for the collapse, said James Borders, area director for OSHA's Jacksonville office.

An Oct. 30 report on the project shows that an inspector hired to enforce construction codes found cracks in columns on the second and third floors and in the third-floor slab. It wasn't clear Thursday whether those cracks were structurally important.

The report, part of a monthly update filed with city building officials in November, said the cracks would be reported to the engineer of record for the building. The inspector writing the report, engineer Timothy Frazier, wrote that he would await guidance from the engineer of record. Frazier couldn't be contacted Thursday.

Borders said federal inspectors would study building plans, inspection reports and other records, and supplement those with eyewitness accounts.

He said inspectors would look for possible causes that included design flaws in a concrete component or the overall building; defects in wooden forms built to hold newly poured concrete; and signs that too much weight was loaded onto any part of the garage.

If needed, OSHA could bring structural specialists from Atlanta or Washington to help in the review, he said.

Broken building pieces covering the ground will be full of clues, said Gene Corley, a structural engineer in private practice who had lead roles in investigations of the 2001 collapse of the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City federal building bombed in 1995.

He said OSHA probably will study detailed engineering plans for placing temporary supports, then sift the debris and count how many actually were there. Inspectors will look at locations where metal reinforcements tying together huge concrete pieces gave way. …

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