Miami Dade College Garage Collapsed Because Column Wasn't Properly Supported: Attorney

Errors were made by the construction and inspection companies, Ervin Gonzalez argued in court Thursday

By Willard Shepard
|  Friday, Mar 29, 2013  |  Updated 10:43 AM EDT
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The Oct. 10 garage collapse on Miami Dade College's west campus happened because of trouble with a column that wasn't properly supported when it was first installed and because inspectors didn't catch the flaw, attorney Ervin Gonzalez said in court Thursday. Meredith Cooper, an attorney for general contractor Ajax Building Corp., also spoke in court. The lawyers for Ajax and the other companies who were in court Thursday declined to comment on the allegations.

The Oct. 10 garage collapse on Miami Dade College's west campus happened because of trouble with a column that wasn't properly supported when it was first installed and because inspectors didn't catch the flaw, attorney Ervin Gonzalez said in court Thursday. Meredith Cooper, an attorney for general contractor Ajax Building Corp., also spoke in court. The lawyers for Ajax and the other companies who were in court Thursday declined to comment on the allegations.

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Ajax Building Corporation Executives Talk About Miami Dade College Garage Collapse

Ajax Building Corporation Executives Talk About Miami Dade College Garage Collapse
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The October garage collapse on Miami Dade College’s west campus happened because of trouble with a column that wasn't properly supported when it was first installed and because inspectors didn't catch the flaw, an attorney said in court Thursday.

Ervin Gonzalez, the lawyer for the family of collapse victim Samuel Perez, put forward the photos he says are at the heart of the collapse.

Four construction workers were killed when part of the five-story garage that was being built on Miami Dade’s campus in Doral collapsed Oct. 10.

The photos, which were obtained by NBC 6, show that errors were made by the construction and inspection companies, Gonzalez said.

He told Miami-Dade civil court Judge Spencer Eig that the pictures show columns at the construction site that were not grouted – and never further secured – which made them weaker. That ultimately led to the collapse, Gonzalez argued.

Column B-3 didn’t have any grouting, he said.

“There was an accident to the column next to it – B-3 didn’t have any cement. B-2 was hit by a crane. It shifted the entire building,” Gonzalez told NBC 6. “So when it shifts the building, the column without any cement eventually collapses like a house of cards and kills four men and injures many other people.”

VIDEO: Garage Collapse Response Turns to Recovery Operation

Gonzalez and the lawyers for the construction companies who have been sued faced off to settle a dispute of how testing of the remaining portions of the columns at the construction site should be conducted.

Another source told NBC 6 that the columns under close scrutiny were either not grouted or it was not done properly.

Miami Dade College provided inspection reports done by the company hired to check the work as it went along. None of the reports NBC 6 examined address the issue with grouting alleged by Gonzalez.

The lawyers for general contractor Ajax Building Corp. and the subcontractors did not address the allegations made by Gonzalez in court, and instead stuck to the technical issues of how testing on the columns should move forward.

The lawyers for Ajax and the other construction companies who were in court Thursday declined to speak with NBC 6 on camera, or comment on the allegations made by Gonzalez.

The inspection company's attorney, who participated in the court hearing over the phone, also did not address Gonzalez's statements, and the company did not respond to a request for comment.

The judge told the attorneys involved to come up with a plan to conduct tests on the columns that collapsed by next week.

VIDEO: Collapsed Garage Quickly Became "Just a Big Smoke Cloud": Witness

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