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Downtown building collapse: Worker missing in debris was looking for concrete seepage

Recovery efforts continue into second day
Posted at 7:45 AM, Nov 26, 2019

CINCINNATI — The construction worker who went missing after a building collapsed Monday afternoon had been checking for concrete seepage when the floor above him collapsed, Turner Construction Company spokesperson Pat Crowley said.

The Gateway Concrete Forming Services worker was on the sixth floor of the 4th and Race development, checking for seepage and monitoring the temporary shoring system as Baker Concrete employees poured on the floor above, Crowley said.

Crews narrowed their “somber and grim” recovery efforts Tuesday afternoon to an area about two to five feet from the ledge of the partially-built building, Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48 president Matt Alter said.

Alter said crews are holding onto a sliver of hope that they’ll find the worker alive, but they “don’t want to give a false sense either.”

“We have a gentleman who showed up for work ... hoping to come home and celebrate Thanksgiving with his family on Thursday, and unfortunately that doesn’t appear that that’s going to be the case,” Alter said.

First responders pulled four Baker Concrete employees from the debris Monday afternoon. They were all treated at local hospitals and have since been released.

Fire Chief Roy Winston said crews brought in heavier equipment to help in the search. Crews are shoring up floors beneath the debris before the new equipment is brought in; they're also trying to remove debris hanging from the side of the building before high winds move in Wednesday.

Crews are searching a large area, about 200-feet by 40-feet, so K-9s are being brought in to narrow down the search area, Winston said.

Initially, crews were using jackhammers and smaller hand tools until engineers could determine the building could handle larger equipment.

Turner Construction Company brought in additional workers to help offload some of the concrete from the work site and make the search area more safe, Winston said.

The mission started as a search and rescue but changed to a recovery effort at about 7:45 p.m. Monday, according to an email sent from City Manager Patrick Duhaney to members of City Council.

"It goes without saying that this is a horrible tragedy," Duhaney wrote in the email. "Our thoughts are with the family of all those affected, particularly the individual who has not yet been found. We are all praying for a miracle."

Baker Concrete corporate counsel and spokesman Rich Farr said Monday it was too early to tell what contributed to the collapse, and his company’s primary concern “is the well-being of any injured co-workers."

WCPO has reached out to Gateway Concrete Forming Services for comment.