One construction worker was killed and another rushed to a Baltimore hospital Thursday after 50,000 pounds of concrete collapsed in a parking garage at Westfield Montgomery mall
, according to police and fire officials.
The hurt worker was trapped for nearly four hours until a crew reinforced the surrounding area with wood and steel beams, then eventually was freed after rescuers sliced through the concrete.
“We had to shore it to where it was seated and then remove materials, whether it be steel or concrete around the patient in order to free him,” Montgomery County Fire Department Assistant Chief Scott Graham told reporters.
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The accident happened in a 40-foot section of the garage just outside of Macy’s before 2 p.m. local time. Not open to the public, the area is being renovated to accommodate expansion plans for a 16-screen movie theater.
Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham told reporters that no other people were inside. More than 100 personnel aided in the rescue.
Construction company Whiting-Turner – whose website lists hospitals, schools and projects such as Reston Square and Rockville Town Square as its jobs — is heading the project, though it was unclear whether they or a subcontractor was working on the collapsed area.
Diane Schwartz Jones, director of Montgomery’s Department of Permitting Services, told The Washington Post that her staff was sifting through permits and permit applications associated with the project, and couldn’t say whether any citations had been issued during the construction process.
“At this point in time, I can’t answer any specific questions other than to say we want to know what happened,” Jones said.
There was no structural damage to the mall, and authorities have yet to determine a possible cause.
“Westfield is working closely with these authorities and is grateful for their rapid and comprehensive response,” representatives with Westfield-Montgomery Mall said in a statement. “Responders and investigators are working in and around the closed and quarantined parking structure."
The mall, the largest in the Bethesda area, opened in March 1968 with a Hecht’s, Garfinckel’s Sears and 58 smaller stores. In 2007, The Montgomery County Planning Board approved plans to add 360,000 feet of retail space to the 1.2 million-square-foot mall. The 60,000 square foot ArcLight Cinema above the parking garage was projected to open in spring 2014.
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