San Paolo Building Collapse Reminiscent of Five Other Tragic Engineering Disasters
On August 27, 2013, a clothing store in the last stage of construction collapsed in San Paolo, killing seven. Twenty-six other people were pulled from the rubble. According to the BBC, such building collapses are frequent in San Paolo, mainly affecting buildings under construction and poorly maintained buildings. But as an attorney who handles both construction accidents and premises liability cases, I am well-aware that such tragedies occur all over the world. While some construction accidents are the result of unsafe workplace conditions, others are the result of a larger problem – poorly designed buildings. Due to inexperienced architects and engineers or designers who want to push the limits of physics and construction, buildings can collapse unexpectedly, even after they have been fully completed and functional for a substantial amount of time.
Five Architectural and Engineering Mistakes That Resulted in Tragedy
1.The St. Francis Dam–
The concrete dam was located about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles and was designed and built by the Los Angeles Bureau of Waterworks and Supply under the supervision of Chief Engineer William Mulholland. On March 12, 1928, the dam collapsed, causing a flood that killed 600 men, women, and children in the surrounding area. More than a dozen subsequent investigations found insufficient foundations and ground that became too soft when wet.
In 1978, a building under construction in Bailey’s Crossroads, VA collapsed, killing 14 construction workers and injuring 34. Investigators determined that support structures surrounding concrete columns on the 22nd floor had been removed too soon; the concrete had not fully dried and the columns collapsed under the weight of the two floors above it.
3.Hyatt Regency Walkway-
On July 17, 1981, the fourth floor walkway spanning the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, MO collapsed, hitting the second and third floor walkways below it and landing in the middle of a dance on the ground floor. The collapse killed 114 and injured 216, making it the worst building collapse in U.S. history until the attacks of September 11. Investigators found that the bridge was not fully supported. With the added weight of a large group of guests watching the events below, the bridge simply could not stay up.
4. Hotel New World-
The Singapore luxury hotel collapsed on March 15, 1986, with all six stories crumbling in less than a minute. Fifty people were inside the hotel at the time of the collapse, and only 17 survived, most of them pulled out of the rubble on the second day by the Civil Defense Force. Experts later determined that the hotel had collapsed because the architect and engineer had neglected to include the building’s own weight into the design. As a result, the hotel was too heavy and collapsed under its own weight.
5. Sampoong Department Store-
502 people were killed and 937 injured when this building collapsed on June 29, 1995. Investigators found that almost all the blame rested on Lee Joon, the chairman of the building. Midway through the construction process, Joon changed the building from an office to a department store, though the building plan lacked the architectural details necessary to accommodate such a change. To make matters worse, Joon hired his own company, removed vital support columns, added a fifth floor, used half the reinforcing bars it needed, reduced the size of the concrete columns, and ignored expanding cracks in the building. The cracks were visibly growing on the day of the collapse, but Joon and his employees did not evacuate the building because he did not want to lose revenue.
During my career as a personal injury lawyer, I have represented clients in devastating construction accidents and premises liability cases resulting from unsafe workplaces and constructions sites, as well as from poorly maintained property. And though the scope of these accidents may not compare to those listed above, for the victim, the outcome is just as devastating whether he is the only victim or one of 100. If you have sustained an injury due to another’s negligence, you are likely entitled to financial compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss who is responsible for your injuries and how to get you the money you need to recover.
About the author:
Joseph G. Macaluso is a personal injury lawyer practicing at the Bronx law firm of Macaluso & Fafinski, P.C. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Macaluso has been in private practice since 1990 with an exclusive focus on personal injury and medical malpractice. A member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, he has served on the Legislative Committee of this organization and is also a member of the Bronx County Bar Association and has served on the Board of Directors of Bronx Legal Services.