Tragedy struck in Davenport, Iowa, as the police chief announced on Monday that the bodies of three men had been recovered from the site of a six-story apartment building that had collapsed. Chief Jeff Bladel revealed that the search for survivors had concluded, shifting the focus to stabilizing the remaining structure for recovery operations to commence.
Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa visited the site, pledging state support and resources in collaboration with city officials. Expressing gratitude to the brave first responders who risked their lives to aid the community, she conveyed this message on Twitter.
Meanwhile, residents affected by the catastrophe have initiated legal action. Dayna Feuerbach filed a lawsuit on Monday, naming the city and both the current and former owners of the building. Feuerbach accuses them of being aware of the deteriorating conditions and neglecting to warn the tenants of the impending risk. Mildred Harrington also filed a separate lawsuit against the building’s owner, alleging the same grievances.
Feuerbach’s lawsuit encompasses multiple counts of negligence, and both legal actions seek unspecified damages. Attorney Jeffrey Goodman, representing Feuerbach, emphasized that the city had received numerous warnings, portraying this as a recurring theme in major structural collapses he has encountered. He asserted that the city of Davenport had a responsibility to prioritize the safety of its citizens, a duty that was evidently neglected.
The lawsuits refer to city documents released last week, indicating that concerns regarding the integrity of certain parts of the building had been communicated to both the city and the owner, Andrew Wold, over the span of several months.
A distressing 911 call made just a day before the partial collapse revealed that the director of a local organization affiliated with the chamber of commerce had reported a contractor’s apprehensions about a wall’s stability. According to the dispatch log, city fire officials briefly inspected the site for less than 5 minutes in response to the call.
Previously, city officials had stated that there was a “high probability” that the three victims, Branden Colvin Sr., Ryan Hitchcock, and Daniel Prien, were at home when the collapse occurred. The treacherous conditions within the remains of the six-story apartment building posed significant risks to rescuers, as the structure continued to shift for the first 24 to 36 hours after the incident.
Fire Chief Mike Carlsten acknowledged the challenges faced by responders, striking a balance between building conditions and the safety of the team. He admitted that the response would likely extend over “days and weeks” instead of the ideal timeframe of minutes or hours.
Mayor Mike Matson previously mentioned that the debris pile could serve as a resting place for the unaccounted individuals. As of Monday, there had been no communication between the mayor, other city officials, and Wold.
Wold released a statement on May 30 expressing thoughts and prayers for the tenants, but has remained silent since then. Attempts to reach Wold, his company, and his attorney have proven unsuccessful.
According to county records, Davenport Hotel L.L.C. acquired the building in 2021 for a total of $4.2 million.
Police Chief Bladel disclosed that the Davenport fire marshal’s office, with assistance from the state Division of Criminal Investigation, Davenport police, and the medical examiner’s office, had initiated an investigation into the cause of the building collapse.
Originally constructed as a hotel in 1907, the building had been converted into around 80 apartment units that were home to approximately 50 individuals.
In response to the displacement caused by the incident, the state had made $5,000 available to eligible tenants based on income requirements, while the city offered $6,000 to assist those forced from their homes. Additionally, the governor waived fees for replacing driver’s licenses for affected tenants.
Scott County prosecutor Kelly Cunningham cautioned against prematurely assuming criminal prosecution, emphasizing the need for an independent investigation into the structural failure of the building. At present, the jurisdiction lies with the city.
Unanswered questions remain, including why neither the owner nor city officials issued warnings about the potential danger. A structural engineer’s report issued shortly before the collapse had indicated that a wall in the century-old building was at immediate risk of collapsing.
City documents, released as part of the legal proceedings, reveal that city officials and the building’s owner had been informed of the building’s instability over several months.
The lawsuit filed on Monday also implicates two companies hired by Wold to assess and perform work on the building. The legal action argues that all parties recognized the imminent danger faced by residents but allowed the building to deteriorate without warning them about the peril they were in.
Tenants had also lodged complaints with the city in recent years regarding various issues, which they claim were ignored by property managers. These grievances included prolonged periods without heat or hot water, as well as problems with mold and water leakage. While the city took some measures to address specific complaints and issued vacate orders for individual apartments, a broader evacuation was never mandated, according to records.
Former and current residents shared their accounts with The Associated Press, recounting interior cracks on the wall that ultimately collapsed, which had been reported to building management. In one harrowing incident, a woman trapped in the rubble had to undergo a leg amputation to facilitate her rescue.