CLEARWATER, Fla. — Part of a concrete stairwell collapsed on a construction worker inside a parking garage around 12:35 p.m. Monday in Clearwater, burying the person underneath rubble.
"At this point, it's looking more like a recovery operation than a rescue operation," Clearwater Fire & Rescue Division Chief John Klinefelter said.
According to Klinefelter, two levels of concrete flooring and stairs came down while the person was doing some sort of work at a four-story garage on Enterprise Road.
Another construction worker was not injured.
The parking garage is adjacent to an administrative building of the nonprofit Tampa Bay Water, which supplies wholesale drinking water to much of the region. A spokesperson said the person underneath the rubble was not one of its employees.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the construction workers and their families as emergency managers respond,” Tampa Bay Water General Manager Chuck Carden said.
The Pinellas County Technical Rescue team was dispatched to the scene. And a Sunstar ambulance was standing by, in case the person underneath the rubble is found alive.
As of 1:30 p.m., firefighters had not yet moved in to search the rubble. They were waiting on a structural engineer to check cracks in the garage's exterior walls.
While first responders still await the green light from the engineer, Klinefelter says heavy equipment is en route to disassemble the corner of the stairwell from top to bottom. Once the cranes and bulldozers clear the collapsed portions, first responders will be able to go inside.
Klinefelter adds that those on scene are working as quickly and safely as possible given the potential for strong storms to push through the Tampa Bay area overnight.
The stairwell that collapsed is separate from the parking garage itself, according to first responders. As of 4:17 p.m., authorities do not have concerns about the rest of the structure collapsing.
As of 7:44 p.m., a spokesperson for Clearwater Fire & Rescue says a private contractor is still at the scene of the collapse awaiting the equipment needed to dismantle the stairwell. They added that the city is currently researching the permitting and construction history of the parking garage and hope to make those available Tuesday.
The parking garage, which is owned by Plymouth LLC, was evacuated. Nearby buildings appear unaffected.
The city's building department is currently reviewing the building records now for the garage's inspection history.
A spokesperson with Tampa Bay Water indicated the garage had recently been undergoing repairs. The company adds that it is one of several companies that lease space in the parking garage.
Through an interlocal agreement with area governments, Tampa Bay Water serves more than 2.5 million people in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties – along with individuals living in the cities of Tampa, St. Pete and New Port Richey.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.