DES MOINES, IOWA — Three residents of an Iowa apartment building that partially collapsed on Sunday are still unaccounted for, police said Thursday, as city officials responded to questions about who might be responsible.
Earlier this week, authorities said five people were missing, but Davenport Police Chief Jeff Bladel said during a media briefing Thursday morning that two of them have since been accounted for and are safe. One moved out of the building a month ago and was found in Texas, and the other was found locally.
The six-storey building partially collapsed shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. Rescue crews pulled seven people from the building in their initial response, and escorted out 12 others who could walk on their own. Later, two more people were rescued, including one woman who was removed from a fourth-floor unit hours after authorities said they were going to begin setting up for demolition.
The city has since released documents, including structural engineering reports, that show the building’s owner was warned that the parts of the building were unstable.
An engineer’s report dated May 24, just days before the collapse, suggested patches in the west side of the building’s brick facade “appear ready to fall imminently” and could be a safety hazard to cars or passersby.
The engineer’s report also detailed that window openings, some filled and some unfilled, were insecure. In one case, the openings were “bulging outward” and looked “poised to fall.” Inside the first floor, unsupported window openings help “explain why the facade is currently about to topple outward.”
“The brick facade is unlikely to be preserved in place, but it can be brought down in a safe, controlled manner,” the report stated.
Andrew Wold, the building’s owner, released a statement dated Tuesday saying “our thoughts and prayers are with our tenants” and that his company, Davenport Hotel, L.L.C., is working with agencies to help them.
County records show Davenport Hotel, L.L.C. acquired the building in 2021 in a deal worth $4.2 million. The city later declared the building a nuisance due to numerous solid waste violations, and a judge ordered Wold to pay a $4,500 penalty after he did not appear in court.
On Tuesday, the city filed a new enforcement action against Wold, saying that he had failed to maintain the property “in a safe, sanitary, and structurally sound condition” before the collapse. The city is seeking a $300 fine.
Emails sent to an attorney believed to be representing Wold have not been returned.
Residents in recent months have made numerous complaints about the building, and documents show that others also notified the city of potential problems.
MidAmerican Energy, an electric and gas utility, complained to the city in early February about an unsafe and deteriorating brick wall at the west corner of the building. The utility told city officials that its employees would not work in the area until improvements were made, including the installation of scaffolding.
A city notice dated Feb. 2 said the wall was gradually failing and cited “visible crumbling of this exterior load bearing wall under the support beam.” The notice also said the exterior brick veneer had separated and allowed rain and ice to cause damage, and that the electrical and gas equipment on the outer wall had to be protected from the failure.
The notice ordered Davenport Hotel LLC to provide an engineer’s letter “stating this is not an imminent danger” and to take immediate steps to repair the problems, including installing scaffolding for protection so utility workers would be protected.
“Emergency vacate orders will be posted on the building if the failing masonry area is not secured per this letter,” warned the document, signed by the city’s chief building official, Trishna Pradhan.
A Feb. 8 letter to the city from Select Structural, an engineering firm in Bettendorf, said an engineer conducted an emergency site visit Feb. 2 and determined the crumbling wall “is not an imminent threat to the building or its residents, but structural repairs will be necessary.” It called for replacing a wall and other repairs, but cautioned of risk.
City inspectors monitored progress at the site and learned Feb. 28 that “the west wall has collapsed into the scaffolding” and were informed by workers that “it’s going to be a bigger job that (cq.) what they believed it to be,” a city spreadsheet shows.
By March 3, the contractor, Bi-State Masonry, Inc., walked off the job after the building owner balked at approving a change order with a higher price tag due to “unforeseen work needing performed,” the document states. It’s unclear what happened next.