- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

A Rockville parking garage passed a preliminary building inspection two days before it partially collapsed Friday, killing three construction workers and injuring another.
The seven-story structure was close to completion when a county inspector reviewed reports submitted by independent inspectors on the building's concrete, foundation, steel work and other structural features.
Piles of rubble and broken concrete slabs lay in front of the garage Monday, all that remained of the front section of the building that fell Friday afternoon. Construction teams had removed portions of a wall that was leaning precariously after the collapse and reinforced other walls.
Investigators from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health division, meanwhile, joined engineers from James G. Davis Construction, the contractor on the project, and searched for clues to what caused the accident.
A crew of 15 workers from North Carolina-based C.P. Buckner Steel Erection were helping put concrete slabs into place when the floors gave way, pancaking on top of each other as they fell. Workers told fire officials they heard a pop immediately before the collapse.
The bodies of two workers were found shortly after the collapse, and the third was found the next day beneath seven stories of rubble. A fourth man pulled from the building remained in critical condition Monday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.
C.P. Buckner's president, Eddie Williams, said Monday that preliminary investigations showed his firm wasn't to blame for the collapse.
"There has been nothing discovered. All indications were, from a number of different parties, that the collapse was no fault of the part of Buckner Steel," Mr. Williams told the News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C. "We do have a theory of what happened, but I'm not at liberty at this point to reveal it."
Montgomery County hired outside contractors to conduct regular checks of the garage as it was built, according to records in the county's permitting office. County inspectors reviewed those contractor reports seven times since April, the records show.
The project passed all inspections, and most reports provide only brief descriptions of the construction. One county inspector, however, noted on a visit to the site Aug. 5 that work had slowed on the building.
"The progress seemed to be stalled or maybe the interior concrete walls need time to cure to strength," the report reads.
The report doesn't elaborate on whether inspectors followed up on whether the walls needed to be strengthened.
Officials from Davis Construction did not immediately return a telephone call by the Associated Press on Monday seeking comment on the report.
The garage is part of a three-building project known as Fishers Place, a combination of office and laboratory space near the Twinbrook Metro station. The 248,000-square-foot garage was slated to cost $7 million.


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