Quad City officials calculate rescue tactics in building collapse

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 1:15 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - A Tuesday afternoon search of a partially collapsed Davenport apartment building did not find any signs of human activity according to city officials.

Tuesday morning, officials announced five total people were still unaccounted for, they suspect at least two of those people are still in the building. City leaders have not reported any deaths.

According to the Humane Society of Scott County, the search took about three hours. Crews were able to rescue 6 cats, 2 snakes and one lizard.

As first responders dig through what is left, leaders say they are trying to balance their safety.

Dispatch audio tells the moment the clock started ticking for the rescue on Sunday,

“The fifth floor has caved in and there’s a subject trapped in apartment 510,” a dispatcher said, relaying the call.

Later the audio documented an initial rescue attempt.

“We still have a crew up on the second floor between the two buildings trying to make that rescue off of [the fifth floor.]” a first responder said over the radio.

During a press conference Tuesday morning, Larry Sandhaas, a structural engineer for Shive-Hattery, a Bettendorf-based firm, said the way the structure was built poses challenges to the continued rescue efforts.

He added it was constructed over a century ago.

“It is not a new building,” Sandhass said. “The brick on the outside holds the steel frame inside up and at the same time, the steel of the building holds the brick up. So when you lose the brick, you lose the stability of the building.”

Over 150 trained responders worked in the initial rescues Sunday.

Sandhaas said they are now using technology to evaluate the safety of future searches.

“We’re going to try and build a complete digital 3D model using a scanning drone to assess the condition of it,” Sandhass said. “Assess the prospect of future collapse and help ultimately the city to figure out ... the whats, the wheres, the whys.”

With the rescue of one resident Monday night, Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris said their approach changed.

“That’s why we’re moving forward with reevaluating, getting additional search teams in there to be able to do that,” Morris said. “We used all of our tools. We use all of Iowa Taskforce One’s tools and technology to assess that.”

Officials added they understand the public’s frustration with conflicting reports about the unaccounted for people and the speed of their rescue.

Morris said they also have to focus on first responder safety.

“I apologize that I get upset but there’s a lot of things that we have to factor in,” Morris said. “So understand, it’s not that we don’t want to do this. It’s the fact that we have to do it safely.”

In a statement Thursday, Sarah Ott, Davenport’s Chief Strategy Officer said the building is becoming more unstable.

“The recovery of any unaccounted for individuals remains the priority of the city as operational planning progresses,” Ott said.

The statement did not say when or if crews continued to search Tuesday night.