No fatalities reported in Iowa as officials plan to demolish partially collapsed building

Davenport Fire Chief Carlsten and Mayor Mike Matson provide an updated on the building collapse during a news conference, Monday, May 29, 2023 in Davenport, Iowa. Carlsten said that it was unclear how many people, if any, were still missing after an apartment building in the eastern Iowa city collapsed. (City of Davenport via AP)

Officials in Iowa are making plans to demolish a six-story apartment building a day after it partially collapsed, injuring at least one person and displacing countless residents and business owners. No fatalities have been reported.

City officials in Davenport, a city in eastern Iowa, said in a news release that the property owner was served Monday with an order for demolition of the building that was once the Davenport Hotel. Residents were not being allowed back inside to remove their belongings due to the building’s unstable condition.

“The property is currently being secured by a contractor on site this afternoon and demolition is expected to commence in the morning,” the statement said.

The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.

News of the collapse didn’t surprise Schlaan Murray, a former resident, who told The Associated Press that his one-year stay there was “a nightmare.”

Murray, 46, moved into his apartment in February 2022 and almost immediately began having issues. The heat and air conditioner didn’t work, and there were plumbing problems in the bathroom.

He made multiple calls to the management company, and rarely got a response. Occasionally, he said, a maintenance person would stop by but never completely fix the problem.

“They would come in and put some caulk on it,” he said. “But it needed more than that. They didn’t fix stuff, they just patched it up.”

He questions how the building passed inspections.

“It was horrible,” Murray said, adding that he felt the conditions were so bad that he didn’t want to bring his children to his apartment.

Murray said he moved out a month before his lease was up in March, and still hasn’t received his security deposit. He said that while the building’s conditions were deplorable, many residents were like him and had a difficult time coming up with first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit, to move to another apartment.

Meanwhile, firefighters and other first responders are being credited with saving lives — at great risk to their own personal safety, officials said during a Monday morning news conference.

“When something like this happens here, and tragedy strikes, our responders immediately do their work and their job and I can’t thank them enough,” Mayor Mike Matson said.

Fire Chief Michael Carlsten said workers and K-9 units searched for survivors throughout the night and rescued one person from the building — bringing the total number of people rescued by fire officials to eight. An additional 12 people were escorted out by fire crews when they first responded to the collapse on Sunday evening.

“No known individuals are trapped in that facility,” Carlsten said. Authorities have not released how many people were injured or provided details on the nature of their injuries. Carlsten did say that the person who was rescued overnight was in the hospital.

The building collapsed just before 5 p.m. Sunday. Carlsten said the back of the complex had separated from the mixed-use building, which houses both apartments and businesses. Authorities also found a gas leak in the building after the collapse.

Officials switched from a search and rescue mission to a recovery mission late Monday morning.

Rich Oswald, City of Davenport director of development and neighborhood services, said at a news conference on Sunday that work was being done on the building’s exterior at the time of the collapse.

Reports of bricks falling from the building earlier this week were part of that work and the building’s owner had a permit for the project, Oswald said.

City officials said Sunday that they had several complaints from residents about needed repairs.

“The tenants told us the building was going to collapse,” Jennifer Smith, co-owner of Fourth Street Nutrition, which moved into the building this winter, told the Quad-City Times.

“It sounds bad, but we have been calling the city and giving complaints since December. Our bathroom caved in December,” she said.

Smith said water damage has been apparent since they moved into their space. Her fellow co-owner, Deonte Mack, said fire crews were in the building as recently as Thursday for an inspection.

The Quad-City Times reported nearly 20 permits were filed in 2022 for building repairs, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues, according to the county assessor’s office.

There were 84 units in the building, a mixture of residential and commercial spaces, the mayor said.

In June 2021, 98 people died when a high-rise condominium near Miami Beach collapsed in the middle of the night.

The Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other possible factors for the collapse include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage caused by saltwater intrusion.


Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Ahmed reported from Minneapolis.