UPDATE: Protestors continued to gather Tuesday night, carrying and placing signs in the area of a partially collapsed apartment building in downtown Davenport.
One sign, placed on top of a “Road Closed” sign, said “Find them first,” in support of delaying demolition of The Davenport, which partially collapsed Sunday.
Five people remain unaccounted for from the six-story building. Two still could be in the building.
At a fence surrounding the area, candles were lit. Signs placed on the fence said “Stop the lies!” and “We are here!” Another said “Stop Andrew Wold,” who is, according to court documents, the owner of The Davenport.
EARLIER: The city of Davenport hasn’t decided when the partially collapsed downtown building may be demolished and a family member of one the remaining residents inside is pleading for protestors to stop.
Mayor Mike Matson offered the city’s heartfelt condolences to all affected by the Sunday disaster at 324 Main St.
“This is an active incident that is very fluid and ever evolving,” he said Tuesday at an hour-long press conference. “We are consistently evaluating and getting real-time information.”
Matson said he was very happy that building resident Lisa Brooks was found safe Monday night. He addressed the question of why she wasn’t found earlier.
“I do not know. We do not know, but understand please, that I and the city is committed to finding out why,” the mayor said.
Five people remain unaccounted for from the six-story building, including two people whose remains may be in a pile of rubble at the site.
Matson confirmed the numbers at a news conference following criticism that the city was moving too quickly toward demolishing the building before making sure that no one is still inside. Protests erupted after a woman was rescued Monday night about 8 p.m., hours after the city ordered the demolition to begin as early as Tuesday.
Dozens of angry people gathered outside City Hall at 4th and Harrison streets to call for a stop of the demolition.
Amy Anderson is a first cousin of 51-year-old Ryan Hitchcock, one of the unaccounted men who may still be in the building or trapped under rubble. She spoke at the police department press conference in support of the city actions.
“Leaving last night, I was kind of mortified about the protests and the people raising a voice, and they don’t Ryan and they don’t know our family,” she said. “The city does have a plan and pushing any delays is one more day that he’s under there.”
“I don’t discount that he could be trapped under there, miraculously,” said Anderson, who lives in Mercer County. “We don’t want to see any more families injured, or anyone else be injured in trying to remove that rubble and have anything fall. We’d like to see the city and their plan to take it out piece by piece.
“They have given us their word they are going to treat that already collapsed area with sensitivity, to the remains that are underneath there,” she said. “That’s really what we want. We don’t want a full-on demolition or a full-on delay for that building to collapse more and put more rubble on top of them.”
“This is the best plan and we don’t want anyone else hurt,” Anderson said. “We just want to recover our family. Ryan was, he loved Jesus and we know he’s with the Lord. And we just pray he would respect our wishes and what he would want. We absolutely do not want this to escalate into something that gets more intense and more violent. It is the last thing this community needs right now.”
She asked for protestors to stop – and “proceed in love, proceed in hope and giving, and proceed in support, and prayers.”
“All we want is for Ryan to be respected,” Anderson said, noting he may have lost his life. “He also could be divinely trapped and that’s what we’re praying for. I just want the situation to be handled sensitively to that area.”
She wants the rubble to be searched and limit any injuries to others. “It’s a tough balance. It’s a hard decision,” Anderson said.
Local 4 News spoke to Mike Collier this morning, who believes his cousin Brandon Colvin is still in the building after he did not show up for a Memorial Day gathering. Collier wants the city to do a full search and rescue for him and other people and pets before the building is demolished.
“An unthinkable situation”
“We understand this is an unthinkable situation, especially for the families involved,” Mayor Matson said. Monday night, Davenport fire and police met with the families of the two men likely still in the building.
“Our community stands with these families and supports them,” Matson said.
On Monday at about 12:30 p.m., the city issued a statement: “The owner of the property has been served with a notice and order for demolition of the property. The property is currently being secured by a contractor on site this afternoon and demolition is expected to commence in the morning.”
At 6:30 a.m. Tuesday (after resident Lisa Brooks was rescued), the city said: “Demolition is a multi-phase process that includes permitting and staging of equipment that will begin today. The timing of the physical demolition of the property is still be evaluated. The building remains structurally insecure and in imminent danger of collapse.”
Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris said he wouldn’t allow any explosives to be used in demolition. The city is working with contractors to disassemble the building safely. There is no timetable for that process, he noted.
“We need to evaluate the best possible way to go in there,” Morris said. “It’s a priority for us to do it safely. That’s the problem that we’re running into. We have used all of our resources, all of our technology, all of our tools to determine if there’s any life safety issues in that building.”
“We do not want that building to come down in an uncontrolled manner, because that is going to cause issues for both us as public safety and the community. We want to safely take that building down.”
“When you have a building that is that unpredictable, with all that shifting, we want to be safe about this and we don’t want any more of the community injured,” Morris said.
“The plan to set up, to get in to demolish, was to happen today,” Matson said. They did not plan to actually demolish today.
“We were not looking at instantaneously pulling that building down,” Morris said. “It’s either going to come down on its own, which we do not want. We want to make sure it’s done in a controlled manner. We’re receiving new information.”
Rescuing Lisa Brooks last night was a “viable indication that we need to address this,” he said. “That’s why we’re moving forward, re-evaluating, getting additional search teams in there.”
“I don’t know, but believe me though, we want to know,” Matson said. “I’m committed to finding out.”
There were 53 tenants in the building at the time of collapse (and 80 total residential units). The cause of the collapse hasn’t been determined. The initial 911 call said a car had hit the building, but that is not true, Morris said.
There are search teams currently on site and evaluating the building.
“That building is unstable and continues to worsen as time progresses,” he said. “During the initial search, the building continued to shift while crews were on site.”
It’s the opinion of the city structural engineer that any more search in the pile of debris should be avoided. “We’re currently evaluating the risk assessment of where we can go back in to do this search,” Morris said.
2 people still in building
“We’re very sympathetic to the possibility that there’s two people” remaining in the building,” he said, on the verge of tears and pausing. “We are partnering with other entities and our department to respectfully remove any human remains with dignity.”
“It’s extremely difficult,” Morris said, as a protestor was shouting in the police department lobby. “You can’t run up to a pile of bricks and rocks and just start throwing things off. As much as we want to, we want to get everybody out, and we want to do it right.”
He apologized for getting upset. “There’s a lot of things we have to factor,” Morris said. “We have to do it in a safe manner. At this point, we have to evaluate how safely we can do it, and make the situation even worse.”
The Iowa Task Force 1 came in to evaluate and agreed with the city that the building is extremely volatile. “This building does need to come down and come down in a controlled manner, not create any more damage and lives lost,” he said.
“This is a tragedy; this is a horrific event our community has never experienced before,” Police Chief Jeff Bladel said Tuesday. “We ask our community to continue to rally around the families, continue to rally around the process.”
“This was truly a team effort; this was not just the Davenport Fire Department that made this happen.” Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said of the response to the collapse, which happened at 4:55 p.m. Sunday, May 28. Over 150 trained professionals responded within the first 12 hours of the incident.
There have been multiple searches throughout the building and debris pile, including six specially trained service animals checking for any live victims and human remains, Carlsten said.
They also used drones, thermal imaging, infrared technology to search for signs of life.
The building is over 100 years old, made of brick and steel (state of the art for its time), said Larry Sandhaas, senior structural engineer for Shive-Hattery. “The building is in imminent danger of collapse, as it did on Sunday.”
“The condition of the building is worsening over time. It’s brittle.”
He could not estimate how soon it would continue to collapse. “The debris pile itself is helping to hold the building up,” Sandhaas said, noting he was horrified when he first saw it.
“This building is going to collapse in its own time,” he said. “We’re bringing in survey equipment, and the drone, and we’re bringing in a crew.” They plan to compile a complete 3D digital model of the building to assess it, the prospect of future collapse and make recommendations to the city.
“My heart goes out to the victims,” Sandhaas said.
The former Hotel Davenport was built in 1907 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by the architectural firm Temple and Burrows, the Same firm as the Hotel Blackhawk (1915), the Union Savings Bank and Trust (1924), and the Federal Court House (1932–1933)
Matson said there will be an investigation team to pore through all the information and thanked the community for its generosity. Everything should go through the Red Cross, he said.
“We are using every avenue and every level of assistance and it’s being graciously accepted,” Matson said, thanking the many first responders involved.
A criminal investigation?
The city has been in contact with building owner Andrew Wold but they have not determined if a criminal investigation is warranted, Morris said. “There will be an investigation into how this happened.”
A structural engineer’s report was given to the city (by Bettendorf-based Select Structural Engineering), deeming the building safe to live in, both in January 2023 and earlier in May.
Rich Oswald, director of Davenport’s Development and Neighborhood Services Department, said the building was determined to be structurally sound, though exterior brick repair work was done, and was being done at the time of building collapse.
“The chief building official was satisfied with what engineering requested to repair,” Oswald said.
The current repairs were still in progress, approved by the building official, he said.
Matson said the city has worked the best way possible to ensure safety and will continue to do that. “We require engineers and experts to evaluate things,” he said. “We will keep after that.”
The city is working with the Humane Society of Scott County, to rescue any pets from the building, but tenants are not allowed back in to retrieve any possessions, Matson said.
“First responders will be going back in to save lives,” he said.
Carlsten said the city would not do demolition and search for more victims at the same time.
“There has been a complete communication breakdown during this entire process between the city, the management/ownership team and the residents in the apartments and tenants on the 1st floor,” Tristan Tapscott, co-owner of the Mockingbird on Main theater on the first floor, said after the press conference Tuesday.
“The messaging hasn’t been clear from the start. The demolition verbiage is a prime example. Something has seemed off since this all began and it still seems off.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.