Five still missing after collapse of Iowa apartment building

  • An apartment building collapsed in Davenport, Iowa, on Sunday evening
  • Five people remain unaccounted for, city wants to demolish the building
  • Expert: Building is “unstable and continues to worsen"

DAVENPORT, Iowa (NewsNation) — At least five people are still missing following the partial collapse of a six-story apartment building in Davenport.

The city wants to demolish the 116-year-old building, calling it dangerous and unstable. However, some residents are still not on board, saying they believe people are still trapped inside — possibly alive.

During a search on Tuesday, some animals were rescued, but no human activity was found. City officials said finding anyone still in the building is their number one priority, but fear that at least two of the people might be stuck inside rubble that was too dangerous to search.

The three other missing residents are not believed to have been in the building when it started collapsing Sunday evening, said state Rep. Monica Kurth. Mayor Mike Matson confirmed at a news conference that not all the residents were accounted for.

Dozens of protesters have held their ground outside the apartment building, fighting to prevent the city from taking down the entire building right away for safety reasons.

One woman told NewsNation that her childhood friends’ clothes were hanging on the top floor, untouched, but her friend hasn’t been to work in two days.

Another man said he believes his father is also in the rubble.

“We’ve waited for answers, waited for anything to be honest. I don’t know, I just hope they find her and whoever else was in that building,” he said.

Built as a hotel, it had more recently been used as apartments, and tenants had been allowed to remain even as bricks began falling from the building.

After the partial collapse, the city had announced plans to begin demolishing the unstable remains of the structure as early as Tuesday morning, but they delayed after a woman was found Monday evening.

No deaths have been reported, and nine people have been rescued from the 84-unit building.

Officials now say immediate demolition was never intended, but they did want to quickly stage the site for the tear-down. The woman’s rescue prompted officials to see if they could safely enter and ensure others weren’t inside. But that is extremely difficult when the building could collapse at any time, they said.

Overnight, rescue crews searched the building for signs of life, but found nothing. And now, the city and the people of Davenport are trying to decide whether to demolish the building or keep it up, knowing that at any moment, it could collapse.

“This building is extremely volatile. This building does need to come down, and it needs to come down in a controlled manner. So we do not create any more damage or lives lost,” Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris said.

Morris said explosives will not be used on the building, which is near other structures and is “unstable and continues to worsen.” Removing the debris that is propping up the rest of the building could cause further collapse, he said.

But protesters have remained vigilant, demanding that the city provide the families of those missing the satisfaction of having their family members accounted for — dead or alive.

“This could be a place of rest for some of the unaccounted,” Matson said. The city is trying to determine how to bring down what remains of the building while maintaining the dignity of people who may have been killed, he said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation activating assistance programs for the residents left homeless. After demolition was ordered, residents were prevented from going back inside for belongings due to the instability.

Those residents told NewsNation that they were heartbroken because their life’s possessions, pictures and everything they own is inside the building.

There will be an investigation into what caused the collapse but it is unclear whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

Davenport Hotel, L.L.C., owned by Andrew Wold, acquired the building in 2021 in a property deal worth $4.2 million, according to county records.

The city declared the building a nuisance in May 2022 “due to numerous solid waste violations” involving its overflowing dumpster, court records show.

Wold did not contest the nuisance declaration and inspectors noted similar problems 19 times between then and March 2023, records show. The city took civil enforcement action, and a judge ordered Wold to pay a $4,500 penalty after he did not appear in court.

Tuesday, the city filed a new enforcement action against Wold, saying that he had failed to maintain the property “in a safe, sanitary, and structurally sound condition” before the collapse. The city is seeking a $3,000 fine.

City inspectors reviewed the ongoing repairs three days before the collapse, records show. Plans called for replacing 100 feet of brick to comply with city code starting May 25, and an interior cinder block wall with rebar and grout was partially installed as of last week, according to online inspection and permitting notes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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