Crane accident occurred prior to Fla. garage collapse

DORAL, FL - OCTOBER 10: A person looks on from a flat bed truck at the rubble of a four-story parking garage that was under construction and collapsed at the Miami Dade College
Joe Raedle

MIAMI The CEO of the construction firm responsible for a five-story garage that partially collapsed Wednesday said a crane had bumped a column inside the structure earlier this week.

However, Ajax Building Corp. CEO Bill Byrne said at a press conference Friday morning that while the crane sustained damage, the column did not. He said the crane was repaired, inspected, recertified and put back into service inside the garage.

Two construction workers were pronounced dead Wednesday, shortly after part of the five-story garage on Miami Dade College's west campus collapsed.

A third man, Samuel Perez, 53, was pulled from the piles of wreckage early Thursday after being trapped for about 13 hours. He died a short time after being flown to a Miami hospital.

All three men - Perez, Jose Calderon and Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza - worked for subcontractors of Ajax.

On Friday morning crews resumed their search for a fourth person who has been missing for two days.

Byrne said the accident happened as crews were putting in a "spandrel beam" on the day of the collapse. The beam, a five-story, pre-cast concrete puzzle piece that was to attach to an elevator shaft, was still hanging from a crane near the wreckage Thursday.

Byrne said the project was utilizing pre-cast concrete construction, in which massive concrete pieces are created off-site and put into place by construction workers. Observers said the method has been around since about the 1950s and in recent decades has become the most common method of garage construction, largely because it is more cost-effective.

The cause of Wednesday's collapse hasn't been determined. Byrne said there was "no warning whatsoever."

Byrne also said it is likely an adjacent garage and building may have sustained damage in the collapse.

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is on site and will begin its investigation once the recovery is complete.

"As much as all of us want to know what happened, it is simply too early to determine what has caused this event," Byrne said. "It is critically important that we let OSHA do its job. Speculation does not inform the process or help in any way. We must focus on getting the facts in a transparent and thorough manner."

The $22.5 million project began in February and the 1,855-space garage was to be finished in December, according to Ajax's website. The first floor was to have classroom and office space. No students were near the construction site when the structure fell.

The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week.

A view of the rubble of a collapse parking garage that was under construction at the Miami Dade College's West Campus, October 10, 2012 in Doral, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For Laurel Budhoo and her family it is a difficult wait. Her husband of 34 years, Robert Budhoo, is missing.

"I'm praying that they will find my husband, I need him, I need him," said Budhoo, "My babies all need him."

His brother Michael told CBS Station WFOR correspondent Kara Kostanich, "It's like we are all very nervous. We are just trying to get through this."

Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief David Downey said it was highly unlikely anyone left in the rubble would still be alive.

A police officer who spoke with relatives at the site Thursday said it could take days to find someone in the rubble. When family members asked whether survival was possible, the officer tried to offer encouragement. Afterward, though, several turned their backs to the rubble and sobbed.

"We break down and we console each other," said Steve Budhoo. "We are just going through the motions."