One dead, one injured in mall garage collapse

By Rachel Lang

One construction worker was killed and another transported to Baltimore’s Shock Trauma Center in serious condition due to a partial garage collapse at Westfield Montgomery Mall May 23 at 1:45p.m.

The collapse occurred between the second and third levels of a parking garage near the Macy’s. The garage was under construction, and thus had no patrons or vehicles inside. The mall is undergoing a revitalization project featuring a 16-screen cinema above the garage, according to a Westfield Montgomery Construction Update on the mall’s website.

According to Security Officer Byron Orellana, the construction workers first called paramedics and management, who in turn notified Security staff. The staff then helped block off entrances and direct paramedics and police into the mall.

When fire and rescue arrived on the scene, two workers were trapped on the second level, according to Scott Graham, Assistant Chief of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. They made contact with the trapped workers and began to shore the building with steel and wooden beams. Once they gained access, one victim was deceased while another was pinned under a 50,000 lb piece of concrete, called a double-tee.

After a four-hour rescue operation involving about 125 Fire and Rescue workers, the pinned victim was freed and flown to Baltimore via helicopter.

The accident occurred during the demolition of the exisiting top level, according to Mike Lenkin of Miller and Long Concrete Construction. Although Miller and Long was not the company completing this job, Lenkin surmised that a top double-tee section probably fell and broke the one below it.

“It is hard to say why this happened at this time,” he said. “The weight of the double “T” falling and impacting the one below would collapse the lower double “T.” It is also possible that temporary shoring that was under the double “T” was not installed inadequately or failed and that caused the double “T” to fall.

Stores remained open and no shoppers were evacuated throughout the ordeal, according to Orellana. Many mall patrons say they were unaware of the incident.

“I was getting Jamba Juice with my friend,” said senior Dani Plotnick. “It is just crazy to think that someone outside died while I was sipping on my Poppin’ Peach Mango.”

As of 7:52p.m., fire and rescue operations have concluded, leaving Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) and the Montgomery County Police Dept. to investigate the incident. The mall will remain open for its usual hours.