Atlantic City Parking Garage Collapses

Fri October 31, 2003 - Northeast Edition

At press time, details were still emerging on what caused a five-story section of a parking garage under construction at the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Thursday, Oct. 30 to collapse, killing one person and injuring at least 18, officials said. Twelve people were missing as of Thursday evening, the governor’s office said.

Robert Levy, director of emergency management for the city, said officials were sending search cameras to look through the rubble for any dead or injured workers. The garage is part of an expansion project at the Tropicana Casino and Resort.

“We are planning for the worst. It’s one of the worst collapses Atlantic City has ever seen,” Levy said.

Gov. James E. McGreevey arrived at the scene in a helicopter, and his spokesman, Sean D’Arcy, confirmed the number of dead and missing. Officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were leading the investigation.

Bill Crilley, 42, an insulator working at a project in another part of the city, said he rushed to the building after hearing the collapse and saw authorities carrying one body away.

“It’s ugly. Horrific. The whole stairwell is crushed,” he said.

The 2,400-space, 10-story parking garage flanks an 18-story hotel tower, also still under construction. The end of the building opposite the tower collapsed at about 10:40 a.m., leaving five layers of concrete and steel sloping downward at a steep angle.

“I heard all those floors go. The whole tower shook, like it was a miniature earthquake,” said Jim McNeill, 56, a caulker who was working on the building when it collapsed at about 10:40 a.m.

McNeill said he looked down from the tower and saw five men lying on the ground. Only one was moving.

“It’s a real good possibility that we lost a couple of guys today,” McNeill said.

Sixteen people were at Atlantic City Medical Center, including 10 in the trauma unit. Two people were taken to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point. Another Atlantic County hospital, William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital in Hammonton, was notified that it would likely get some patients.

Maureen Siman, a spokeswoman for the casino, called the accident “a tragedy. We’re devastated. We just hope the workers are OK.”

Alfonso Hernandez, 39, a construction foreman, said he had just walked around the corner to a hardware store when he heard the noise. He said all eight members of his crew were accounted-for.

“It’s scary,” Hernandez said. “We don’t if we lost any of our brothers in there.”

Workers gathered on the street nearby to gaze up at the collapsed frame. In the crowd, a distraught woman searched for her husband. “He was working up there last night, I know,” she said.

The Tropicana expansion project was scheduled for completion next March. Named “The Quarter,” the project is intended to diversify the casino’s offerings with forms of entertainment other than gambling. Tenants slated to move in include a magic shop, an IMAX theater, a Latin-themed nightclub and eight restaurants.