- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

A contractor has been fined $11,275 for safety violations discovered after a Rockville parking garage collapse in November killed three construction workers, state regulators announced yesterday.

Cracks were also found in the section of the garage that collapsed Nov. 15, according to the report by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) agency.

State investigators said they couldn’t determine if the James G. Davis Construction Corp., a Rockville-based contractor overseeing construction of the seven-story garage, made sure the portion that eventually fell could withstand the weight of the building’s concrete floor slabs.

Davis has not been able to prove that it or any subcontractors used a qualified structural engineer to design the section that fell, the report states.

The cracks, found by an independent inspector, should have indicated the building supports were about to fail, an investigator said.

“This accident might have been prevented … if the project engineer had recognized the cracks along the anchor bolts as a possible sign of impending failure,” wrote Roger Campbell, a MOSH investigator.

Davis is challenging the decision and will discuss the citation with state officials at a May 29 meeting, MOSH spokesman Joseph Seidel said.

Stanley Manvill, Davis’ vice president for safety, did not return calls by the Associated Press yesterday seeking comment.

Davis was the lead contractor for the construction of two federal office buildings and the seven-story concrete parking garage. The job included a handful of subcontractors and private inspectors hired by Montgomery County to conduct regular safety and progress checks.

One of those contractors was Graham, N.C.-based C.P. Buckner, who had 15 workers laying beams on the top few floors of the building Nov. 15. The 248,000-square-foot, $7-million garage was nearly 75 percent complete at the time.

Workers who survived said they heard a pop right before a 118-foot-wide by 37-foot-deep section of the building fell, with the concrete floors crashing down on top of each other.

Three workers from North Carolina were killed and one was injured.

State investigators later found a long fracture in a section referred to as C-3, leading them to believe that was the portion that caused the collapse.

Davis built the C-3 section according to the design of a similar part of the garage, even though the two sections were meant to carry different amounts of weight, the report says. Investigators couldn’t find any record that that plan was properly reviewed.

“I have been unable to find plans, drawings or any other documentation that would indicate that the C-3 pier as built, was designed in that manner for that location by a person qualified in structural design,” Mr. Campbell wrote.

One of the inspectors hired by the county later found the cracks and brought them to the attention of the project engineer, Smislova, Kehnemui & Associates (SK&A;). An official with the company said the cracks could be fixed, but there is no evidence any action was taken, the report states.

A woman who answered the phone at SK&A; referred all calls to Davis.

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