Former worker says he brought up safety concerns with Clearwater parking garage long before collapse

Pinellas County

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A man who worked as a maintenance engineer for a company that owned the Clearwater parking garage that collapsed on Monday says he tried to warn the building owners there were major safety issues with the building.

“The first month on the job I was walking to the parking garage taking notes of things that need to be repaired and things that may have been a hazard to people, that was one of my jobs,” Michael Brookhart said. “I noticed right away we had a problem with that parking garage – just chunks of concrete everywhere to clean up looking up at all the rusted brackets and I brought it up immediately to the management attention.”

On Monday, as two construction workers were doing some work in a stairwell at the parking garage, two floors collapsed. Clearwater Fire Rescue says a 23-year-old worker was crushed when the stairwell collapsed.

His body was recovered Wednesday morning.

Brookhart says major structural cracks have been visible in the parking garage for years.

“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,” Brookhart said.

He says he tried to warn about the safety of the structure again after the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida.

“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,” he said.

The current owner of the parking garage says they were not aware of any safety concerns. Zev Freidus with Plymouth Plaza LLC sent the following prepared statement to 8 On Your Side:

“We will thoroughly investigate the situation and events leading to this accident. For now, all we can say is that the former maintenance engineer you refer to worked only for the prior owner from whom we purchased the building and never for us during the time we have been owners. We did not receive any communications or expressions of concern whatsoever from him since our acquisition or for that matter, during our pre-purchase investigations. Respectfully, we will refrain from making further comments until we have a greater understanding of what happened.”

The Clearwater Police Department is now looking into the incident as a possible criminal investigation.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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