2 people likely in collapsed Iowa apartment building

  • A building collapsed in Davenport, Iowa, on Sunday evening
  • Five people in total are unaccounted for, officials say
  • Protests have been taking place near the building

(NewsNation) — Five people remain unaccounted for after the partial collapse of an apartment building in Davenport, Iowa — including two who may be in the wreckage at the site of the collapse, Mayor Mike Matson confirmed at a news conference.

Family members believe Ryan Hitchcock and Branden Colvin were in the building when it went down at 5 p.m. on Sunday, the Quad-City Times reported.

One of Colvin and Hitchcock’s friends who also lived in the building, Broc Nelson, told NewsNation that no one has heard from Hitchcock or Colvin.

“As far as I know, he’s under the rubble,” Hitchcock’s mother, Linda Feliksiak, told NewsNation local affiliate WHBF. “I want them to get him out.”

In a separate interview with WHBF, Colvin’s cousin Mike Collier pointed out where people could still see his relative’s clothes and pillow in his exposed apartment.

“What we would like to do is basically have the city do their job, and get in there, and look under that rubble for our loved ones,” he said. “We need a thorough search of that building.”

Near the site on Tuesday morning, protesters carried signs reading, “Find Them First” and “Who is in the Rubble?” Some used a megaphone to shout out the names of building residents.

The protests started after a woman, Lisa Brooks, was rescued on Monday night — hours after the city initially ordered demolition would begin on the building Tuesday morning. Officials are now saying that immediate demolition was never intended.

Nelson said residents are asking that the building not be torn down until those unaccounted for are found, and until pets are recovered.

Several people have been rescued since Sunday. No fatalities have been reported.

More than 150 trained professionals, including fire, police and medical staff, arrived within the first 12 hours of the incident.

In a Tuesday morning update, the city of Davenport said it is “continually evaluating” the timing of the demolition of the building at 324 Main St.

“Demolition is a multi-phase process that includes permitting and staging of equipment that will begin today,” Davenport said in a statement. “The timing of the physical demolition of the property is still being evaluated. The building remains structurally insecure and in imminent danger of collapse.”

Assistant Fire Chief Jim Morris said at a news conference on Tuesday that it is Davenport’s goal to conduct another search for additional occupants and any pets.

Crews did just that, with the city saying later in the day “several animals” were rescued and taken to a humane society. No human activity was detected during the search, officials said during a 4:30 p.m. update.

“The stability of the building continues to degrade,” the city said in the statement. “The recovery of any unaccounted for individuals remains the priority of the City as operational planning progresses.”

Rescuing Lisa Brooks Monday night, Morris said, according to WHBF, was a “viable indication that we need to address this,” he said. “That’s why we’re moving forward, reevaluating, getting additional search teams in there.”

CORRECTS TO MAIN STREET INSTEAD OF WEST THIRD STREET-- Onlookers watch as emergency crews work the scene of a partial building collapse on the 300 block of Main Street, Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa. (Nikos Frazier/Quad City Times via AP)
Onlookers watch as emergency crews work the scene of a partial building collapse on the 300 block of Main Street, Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa. (Nikos Frazier/Quad City Times via AP)

At the news conference, Morris fought back tears as he said the city is “very sympathetic” to the possibility that there are still two people left inside the building.

When it is eventually torn down, Morris said, explosives will not be used.

Hitchcock’s cousin, Amy Anderson, said his family spoke with Davenport officials, and they do “have a plan.”

“I don’t discount that he could be trapped under there,” she said, adding that he wouldn’t want anybody to be injured or lose their lives trying to remove rubble. “We would like to see the city, what their plan is to try and take it out piece by piece.”

During the news conference, Morris noted, the “building is unstable and it continues to worsen as time progresses.” It shifted, he said, as crews worked on the first search.

Residents in the six-story structure told NewsNation that on the night of the collapse, they heard a “big bang,” the power went off, and the hallway was filled with smoke and dust.

“My apartment was not one that collapsed, but the building shook,” Nelson recalled to NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert on “Morning in America.”

He remembered hearing a “loud rumble” around him.

“I looked out the window to see nothing but dust and knew immediately that this building was falling down,” Nelson said. “I ran out.”

Now, Nelson doesn’t have his wallet, or other belongings, and can’t even get back into the building.

“I am displaced, dispossessed,” he said.

The cause of the collapse is still unknown. What is known is that work was being done to the exterior of the building.

Reports of falling bricks were part of that work, and the building’s owner had a permit for the project, Rich Oswald, the city’s director of development and neighborhood services, said.

Authorities confirmed, though, that residents had a number of unmet maintenance complaints with the building’s management. According to the Quad-City Times, nearly 20 permits were filed in 2022.

The building was declared a nuisance in May 2022 because of various “solid waste violations” involving its overflowing dumpster, court records show. Owner Andrew Wold did not contest this declaration. Records show inspectors noted similar problems 19 times between then and March 2023. Eventually, Davenport took civil enforcement action, and Wold was ordered to pay a $4,500 penalty after he did not appear in court.

On Tuesday, the city filed a new enforcement action against World, which said he failed to maintain the property “in a safe, sanitary, and structurally sound condition” prior to the building’s demise. The city is seeking a $3,000 fine.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Scott County, activating the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program and the Disaster Case Management Program for the residents left homeless.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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