Davenport hires outside firms to investigate partial building collapse

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Two companies have been tasked with investigating the partial collapse of a six-story apartment building in Iowa that left three dead, many injured and dozens displaced, the city of Davenport announced Wednesday.

The city hired White Birch Group, LLC, and SOCOTEC Engineering to complete a cause and origin report that will be shared with the public “when deemed appropriate,” city officials said in a statement.

The report could start to answer questions about the May 28 partial collapse, including why residents remained in the 116-year-old brick, steel and concrete building despite the many warnings over several months about its integrity.

Structural engineers, masons, city inspectors and tenants all had concerns, city documents show.

One tenant noticed in April that the wall was bowing, the window frame was pulling away from the wall and the floor was uneven. Shauna Dixon messaged her leasing agent questioning if the wall was safe.

“Just asking because the floor and wall is really soft. I don’t want to fall out the side of the building one day,” she wrote.

Unsatisfied with the responses, Dixon has said in an interview that she got management to move her to another apartment building across the street. Weeks later, the bowed wall collapsed.

Several lawsuits have been filed accusing the city and building owner Andrew Wold, among others, of neglecting residents’ safety.

Wold pleaded guilty Monday to a civil infraction asserting that he didn’t maintain safe conditions at the building, according to court documents. It carried a $300 fine plus $95 in court costs.

Also Monday, crews started to dismantle the remaining structure, prompting residents to seek to halt the demolition to preserve evidence for lawsuits. A judge on Wednesday denied the request for an injunction, noting demolition was underway.

By Wednesday, most of the building was dismantled. But completely clearing the site could take several weeks because of the risk to nearby buildings from hazardous materials like asbestos. At least one nearby building — the one Dixon moved to — was completely vacated because of those risks.

The city has also said it’s investigating visits by fire and inspection officials to the building the day before the partial collapse. Fire officials visited in response to a 911 call detailing a contractor’s concern about the structure’s integrity.

City inspectors followed up later that day and determined there were no “observable signs of difficulty or bowing in the external shoring,” according to a city statement.