CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — The recovery efforts for a construction worker who is feared to be dead after two floors of concrete and stairs collapsed in a Clearwater parking garage continued Tuesday as crews faced poor weather and concerns over the potential of another collapse.
Dozens of first responders were called to the structure collapse around 12:30 p.m. Monday. According to rescue crews, two stories of a concrete stairwell came down on a construction worker in a parking garage.
The worker is still missing and presumed dead, Clearwater Fire Rescue Division Chief John Klinefelter said. While his name is not being released, Klinefelter said the victim is a 23-year-old man. His family has been notified.
The scene near the garage on Enterprise Road, off of Countryside Boulevard, was still active Tuesday morning as crews completed preparation work for the next step in the recovery operation.
“We had to remove some trees, contractors are out here stabilizing the ground, we’ve got a light pole we’re taking down to get out of the way with assistance from Duke Energy – in preparation for the next piece of equipment that’s in route,” he said.
Klinefelter said strong storms that moved through the area slowed down some of those operations, as well as the equipment coming from all over the southeastern United States to help. He noted that they will continue to work through the weather as long as it’s safe to do so.
According to Klinefelter, the next piece of equipment – a large excavator – is being brought in from the middle of Florida and is expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon.
“Once that equipment is here and set up, it will begin working on the building. We’re gonna start from the top down – it’s the safest way for us to proceed with this operation at that time,” Klinefelter said. “This machine, as large as it is, is going to be used in a very delicate manner.”
The excavator will be used to remove chunks of concrete “about the size of a football” from the parking garage.
Klinefelter said the goal is to prevent any secondary collapses.
“The stairway is still very unstable, which is why we cannot put crews inside,” he said.
Once the excavator clears the concrete from the top, Klinefelter said the Pinellas County Technical Rescue Team and Clearwater Fire and Rescue will go in to remove the last piece of concrete landing that fell.
“That corner – that stairwell is a separate structure from the main parking garage structure but it’s unsafe,” Klinefelter said. “It’s unsafe for us to put any rescuers, contractors or anybody in there to move this forward any faster than we already are.”
Crews do not have a timeline of when they believe the operation will be complete, but Klinefelter said the excavator “will not stop” once it arrives and starts removing concrete.