TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The worker who was killed when a stairwell in a parking garage collapsed on him was a “good, hardworking guy just trying to care for his family,” Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Slaughter identified the worker as 23-year-old Mitchel Klock, a Riverview man who owned his own welding service.
“He was married earlier this year,” Slaughter said.
Police said Klock and another worker were making repairs in a parking garage near the Tampa Bay Water facility on 2575 Enterprise Road when the stairwell fell down on him.
Crews spent nearly two days carefully dismantling the stairwell from the top down to avoid a second collapse. An excavator was brought in to remove chunks of concrete “about the size of a football” from the parking garage.
On Thursday, Slaughter said the city inspected the structure after getting a complaint in July. Inspectors noted there were structural issues and sent the property manager a report, which recommended they hire a structural engineer.
Slaughter said the property managers had stayed in communication with the city, but it’s unclear what steps they took to address those concerns or what type of repairs were being made when the stairwell collapsed on Monday.
“At this point, it doesn’t seem like they were just ignoring our conversations,” Slaughter said. “I certainly want to make it very clear that I don’t think that Mr. Mitchel Klock deserves to be looked at in a negative light because of that, because we’re talking about a hardworking man who was just trying to put food on the table, a true American.”
Michael Brookhart, a former maintenance engineer for a company that owned the parking garage, told WFLA he warned of structural issues before the collapse.
“Chunks of concrete that were falling from the ceiling anywhere from the size of a tennis ball all the way as big as a football,” Michael Brookhart said. “When I saw that on the news in regards to the condo collapse in South Florida, that really concerned me. The first thing that came to my mind was that parking garage immediately.”
According to Slaughter, investigators are working with a vendor to get a better idea of what caused the building to collapse.
“We are not at the point where we say this is a criminal investigation. We are collecting information related to the death of Mitchel, and trying to make sure if there is any culpability, and that evidence is presented to us during our investigation that we will then, of course, handle it appropriately and follow through with any type of system of accountability that needs to occur,” Slaughter said. “We’ve done a few interviews before, there are certainly other people that may have had knowledge of the building, or of any other complaints, or any other processes that were being done, whether it’s for, to attain insurance or anything during the property ownership, that we would just want to talk to and work toward those processes.”