COLUMBIA, Mo. — A firefighter who was killed in a Columbia walkway collapse was going door-to-door looking for trapped residents, apparently because he and the other emergency responders mistakenly thought they were dealing with a roof collapse, according to investigators.
Lt. Bruce Britt was on the second-floor walkway of University Village Apartments, a University of Missouri-run apartment complex, when the walkway collapsed Saturday morning. Britt, a 23-year veteran of the force, was pronounced dead at a hospital. No residents were injured.
Details of the Saturday collapse are included in incident reports provided by the university police after a public records request by The Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fsqFzq ).
The initial call led first responders to focus on the building's roof, the newspaper reported. The city's 911 log shows the call coming in as a confined space rescue. According to the reports of several officers, dispatchers said residents were trapped inside an apartment.
Some second-floor residents had to climb out of their windows and down ladders to get to safety.
In his report, University of Missouri police Sgt. Alan Fish said he, Britt and another firefighter were on the second-floor walkway of Building 707 walking toward the end that eventually collapsed. He said Britt was knocking on doors looking for trapped residents.
"Just then I heard a loud bang and I began looking to my left," Fish said in his report. "I observed the concrete walkway collapsing towards me and brick being pulled off the front of the building, I could no longer see Lt. Britt who had fallen."
The initial 911 call came from a resident Ghazwan Alwan, who said he woke up just after 4 a.m. when he heard a loud crash. He told police he noticed a significant "dip" in the walkway in front of his second-floor apartment as well as something hanging from the walkway.
After the collapse, Fish and the other firefighter ran toward the north end of the building, away from the crumbling section of walkway. Fish reported that he saw Britt was trapped and saw two other firefighters run toward where Britt had fallen.
"My perception was that the walkway began falling from the south end and outer edge next to the railing, with the side connected to the building falling a split second later," Fish said. He said the walkway appeared to flip as it fell, landing "upside down."
University police detective Sam Easley, who took photographs for documentation, estimated that the portion of walkway that collapsed was 40 feet long.
"I also observed what appeared to be severe rusting on the metal, underneath the existing walkway, where the collapsed portion of walkway separated and exposed a portion of the remaining concrete," he said, noting that the concrete on the remaining walkway "appeared to be in a deteriorated state."
Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw Inc., a Columbia engineering firm, inspected buildings at the University Village complex after the collapse. The firm's report is not yet available.
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com