Part of Town Center parking garage collapses

Kenny Kemp
Charleston firefighters survey the damage done by a fallen piece of concrete from the sixth floor to the fifth floor in the Town Center parking garage.
Kenny Kemp
Charleston firefighters survey the damage down by a fallen piece of concrete from the sixth floor to the fifth floor in the Town Center parking garage.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A construction worker moved an 8,000-pound end-loader onto a part of the Town Center parking garage floor that was weakened because of repairs, leading to a collapse, mall manager Tom Bird said.Part of the sixth floor of the Quarrier Street garage collapsed onto the fifth floor. No one was injured in the incident Thursday morning.The weight of the vehicle and the weakened condition of the section of parking garage caused the collapse, Bird said."This would never have occurred during a normal period," Bird said. "And it never would have occurred if any employee of the contractor hadn't improperly moved a piece of heavy equipment onto an area that was under construction."
The sixth floor of the garage and the area of the fifth floor near the collapse will be roped off until repairs are made, Bird said."We don't need the sixth floor of the parking garage until Christmas," he said, adding that the area should be back open in time for the shopping season.Charleston Building Commissioner Tony Harmon said crews were working on the top floor of the parking garage, stripping a protective layer from the surface of the concrete when the 20-foot by 30-foot section of concrete collapsed under the weight of the end-loader and fell through to the garage's fifth floor. No one was reported injured in the mishap, but cars on the fourth floor below the collapsed section were moved."We went up there and made sure they did all [the] precautions with it until their engineer arrives," Harmon said.He said braces were set up between the fifth and sixth levels of the parking garage in the area of the collapse and between the fourth and fifth levels to reinforce the garage.
Harmon said the reinforcements should make the garage safe enough until more permanent repairs can be made.Bird said the mall makes repairs to the garage every year. Over the past eight years, the mall has spent $2 million on its upkeep, he said.Mall officials have also had three major reviews of the garage over the last 10 years. Most recently, consultants with Michigan-based Walker Restoration did a review of the garage last week and found no major problems, Bird said.The collapse was an isolated incident, he said."My car is parked on the fifth level of the garage and it will be there tomorrow," Bird said. "We're confident that any citizen of Charleston who drives to the mall can park in the garage and be very safe."
A structural engineer was scheduled to check the garage for further damage Thursday evening, Bird said.Allyson Hager, an employee of West Virginia Senior Services at the mall, said she was on the fifth floor taking a smoke break when the incident happened just before 11 a.m.A jackhammer was running but it stopped before the collapse, she said."This big boom occurred and a poof of dust [appeared]," Hager said, adding that the nearby mall doors opened and closed on their own at the impact. "After the noise there was dead silence, nothing. It was like the whole world was quiet."Reach Lori Kersey at or 304-348-1240.Reach Rusty Marks at or 304-348-1215.
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