Owner of collapsed Iowa building faces $300 fine for ‘failing to keep structure safe’

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The owner of a building that collapsed earlier this week in Davenport, Iowa, is facing a $300 fine for “failing to keep the structure safe.”

Court records reviewed by The Independent on Wednesday show that Andrew Wold is listed as a defendant in a civil enforcement action brought by the City of Davenport on Tuesday, two days after Mr Wold’s six-storey building on 324 Main Street collapsed. According to WQAD, Mr Wold now faces a $300 fine stemming from the enforcement for reportedly failing to keep the building in “safe, sanitary and structurally sound condition.”

Three tenants are still unaccounted for after a large portion of the residential complex fell down on Sunday night. Authorities have said they now face a challenging decision as engineers warned another collapse of the remaining structure is “imminent” – but at least two men, Ryan Hitchcock and Branden Davis, are feared to be trapped in the existing wreckage.

The cause of the collapse has not been determined. But tenants had long complained about several issues with the building, including water leakage and cracks on the walls. The week before the collapse, bricks were reportedly falling off the building’s exterior.

Mr Wold bought the building through his LLC Davenport Hotel in 2021 for $4.2m, according to The Des-Moines Register. The building had at least 19 violations since May 2022. Mr Wold was previously fined $4,500 after he failed to appear in court back in March.

It is unclear whether Mr Wold will have a chance to present his case to the city before the $300 fine becomes effective.

Three people are unaccounted for after a building collapsed in Davenport, Iowa, on Sunday evening. Two of them are believed to be trapped under debris

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Jennifer Smith, whose business is located in the building, said she first heard about the explosion from her husband, who works for Mid-American Energy.

“He was on call and got called in for a building explosion downtown. We had no idea it was our building,” Ms Smith 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.”

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

“The tenants told us the building was going to collapse,” Ms Smith said.

The structure was undergoing permitted repairs at the time of the collapse, officials said. Last year, nearly 20 permits were filed, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues, according to the Associated Press.

Davenport residents attend a small vigil for the victims feared trapped under the rubble

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A firefighter combs through the wreckage while searching for residents potentially trapped after the collapse


A permit’s inspection for “framing before cover” appeared to be approved when the complex came down around 5pm on Sunday but now appears as “failed” on the City of Davenport website, local news station KWQC first reported. When confronted about the change, a city spokesperson told the outlet that it was due to a “computer glitch” but denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the physical documents.

The Independent has reached out to city officials.

Fire Marshall Jim Morris said on Tuesday that Mr Wold was cooperating with the investigation and had been at the site of the collapse on Monday. No criminal charges have been filed as several agencies assess who will take leadership in the investigation.

Mr Wold and building management said in a statement to We Are Iowa that they were working to promptly refund deposits to tenants.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our tenants and families during this difficult time,” the joint statement read. “We would like to thank the brave men and women of Davenport fire, Davenport police department, and all other first responders for their tireless efforts to ensure everyone’s safety.”

“We have been working closely with the American Red Cross and other agencies to assist the displaced tenants affected by this event …”

Despite a myriad of reports from past and current tenants that the building’s conditions were unsafe, a structural engineer hired by the owner deemed the structure safe, officials said. According to a profile published in The Quad-City Times in 2016, Mr Wold is an avid real estate buyer with a large portfolio.

“I like to buy blocks,” he said at the time. “I like to be able to control the area, to kind of police it.”

A school bus drives past the rubble after a building collapsed in Davenport, Iowa

(Quad City Times)

Meanwhile, the announcement of demolition plans less than 24 hours after the collapse, before city officials even acknowledged they had been unable to locate several residents, has sparked outrage within the community. The eleventh-hour rescue of a tenant who had passed out under a couch and awoke to the sound of family yelling her name also heightened concern that the men could be alive under the rubble.

Confronted by reporters, Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said that “demolitions plans have been continuously evaluated” but refused to address whether the miracle rescue was a determinant factor in the reassessment. Experts who spoke at the presser said another collapse was imminent if the demolition was delayed.

The structure built in the 1900s is now extremely unstable, city officials said. Because of the layout of the building, with the rear brick part holding together much of the steel, officials said there were likely no void spaces where trapped victims could have taken shelter.

“We want to get everyone out, we want to do it right now,” Mr Morris said as he broke down in tears at Tuesday’s press conference. “So understand, it’s not that we don’t want to do this … it’s that we have to do it in a safe manner.”

Fire authorities have since said they began the permitting process but will stage the demolition in a moderate and controlled manner at a later time. In a rescue operation on Tuesday night, several pets were saved from the rubble but there were no signs of human activity.

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