DORAL (CBSMiami) – A nearly completed parking garage at the West Campus of Miami-Dade College collapsed Wednesday morning leaving three people dead, several people injured and one person still trapped in the rubble.
Crews on scene estimated that around 30 workers were in the garage during the collapse. Reports from the scene said electricians, plumbers and other workers were in the garage when it collapsed.
"I was just sitting at my desk and just so happens that I turned around and I looked because I have a window and as soon as I look I see the first rack hit and a whole bunch of dust come up," said witness Kayla Pulido, who has an office across the street from the garage. "And people were screaming, and I run out and one of my co-workers starts to call 911. I know there was people up there because this morning you could see them putting up things. I was terrified."
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, one person was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, 4 were taken to Kendall Trauma, 3 were treated on the scene and released, 1 is trapped in the rubble, and one is still unaccounted for.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Arnold Piedrahita said they are in contact with the trapped worker and he is said to be alert and responding. They say due to the location he is pinned, they are not able to determine the extent of his injuries and the structural integrity is making the rescue effort difficult.
Laurel Buhdoo's husband of 34 years, Robert, is one of the men who was working on this new parking garage at Miami-Dade College's West Campus. Twelve hours after the garage collapsed, Robert Buhdoo is still missing.
"I'm praying that they'll find my husband because I need him, I need him," Laurel Budhoo cried. "My babies at home need him. It's like scary not knowing what is going out there. He may be hurt and laying down there and have no one to reach him. And I don't know, scary."
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Miami-Dade College director of communications Juan Mendieta said the collapse was "a very tragic situation," and that "our thoughts are with the construction workers."
The building, located at 3800 NW 115th Avenue in Doral, was being built by the Ajax Building Corporation at a cost of $22.5 million. The garage was just two months from being completed and was being built using a precast concrete design.
Ajax released a statement Wednesday afternoon that read in part, "Ajax Building Corporation extends our deepest sympathies and prayers to the families of our colleague who died, our colleagues currently being rescued, and others injured in today's accident at our construction job site for the new parking garage at Miami-Dade College West Campus in Doral, Florida. ... At this time, we are properly focused on the tragic loss of a life an the well-being of anyone injured, an on helping the families involved."
Ajax also said it was sending representatives from the company's home base of Tallahassee to assist in the investigation.
Mendieta said the college serves around 8,000 students, but none were injured. The school will remain closed the rest of the week and classes for next week will be reassessed after safety engineers have had a chance to inspect all the buildings on the campus.
- Click here to see a photo gallery from the scene of the collapse.
Joel Guevara was a student in a classroom adjacent to the garage and likened the collapse to an earthquake.
"It felt like an earthquake and we just kept doing our work and five minutes later we heard sirens telling us to go toward the cafeteria," Guevara said. "They told us it was too unsafe."
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue dispatched more than 90 fire-rescue units to the scene and Capt. Fernandez said more than 300 fire-rescue personnel were on the scene.
From Chopper 4, it appeared that there were some vehicles under the section that collapsed.
One student on Twitter described the collapse saying, the "entire campus just shook."
Inspections of the garage as it was being built, as well as permitting of the work, was performed by Miami-Dade College and not the city or county. According to the contractor's website, the garage was designed to incorporate a shell classroom and office space on level one with parking on 5 levels above.
Capt. Fernandez said the collapse was one of the largest ever seen in Miami-Dade County and said it was a "pancake" collapse where each floor collapse onto the one below it.
Alejandra, a student who was on-campus at Miami-Dade College during the collapse, spoke to CBS4 about what she saw:
The City of Doral said 115th Avenue between NW 34th and 41st Street will be closed for the remainder of the week.
Fernandez said investigators will be on the scene for several days trying to get to the bottom of what caused the massive structure to collapse.
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