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Cleanup begins after deadly NYC parking garage collapse in Lower Manhattan

Cars removed from rubble as crews tear down parking garage
Cars removed from rubble as crews tear down parking garage 02:21

NEW YORK -- A complete controlled demolition got underway Wednesday at the site of the collapsed parking garage in the Financial District.

Officials say there were 80-90 vehicles on the roof and within the garage.

Several nearby properties were ordered to vacate, and the Red Cross is offering assistance to those affected.

Wednesday, a body was removed from the wreckage and transferred to the medical examiner's office for identification. It took nearly 24 hours for the structure to be deemed safe enough for them to go inside and recover the victim's body.

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New video from Chopper 2 shows a large crane dismantling the walls of the collapsed Lower Manhattan parking garage. Massive chunks of debris and crushed cars were dropped onto the street below.

Adam Cohen said he has been parking his SUV in the garage for 11 years. Now, the Nissan Pathfinder sits in a temporary pile of rubble with the rest of the doomed vehicles.

"If it was a Wednesday, it very well could have been," Cohen said. "We go to soccer at 4:15 p.m., right when the building came down, and so it easily could've been us, and I know people in the building when it did come down."

First responders rushed to the scene on Ann Street within minutes of the collapse on Tuesday afternoon.

We now know seven people were hurt, including five workers inside the garage, and one was killed when the roof caved in to the third floor, creating pressure on the facade and further instability, leading to a full-on internal collapse.

"I'm so glad the loss of life wasn't more. It easily could've been because at any number of times, there are strollers, there are families, like, it's a very, very family area," Cohen said.

Garage customer Veena Raju is less concerned about her car than she is about the garage manager, Willis Moore, who is still unaccounted for.

"The car is just a car," she said. "He was super hard working, worked holidays. Everyone on his team really respected and liked him, so it's really sad."

Watch Ali Bauman's report

Crews begin long demolition process at collapsed NYC parking garage 02:55

No official cause has been identified, but investigators say the weight of the parked cars on the roof and the age of the 100-year-old garage likely contributed to its demise.

City officials are investigating exactly what caused it to give out.

"And making sure if there's something we can put in place to prevent something like this from happening, we will," Mayor Eric Adams said.

Demolishing the rest of the structure will be a slow and careful process.

"Right now, we're transitioning to how we safely take down that building, and it's incredibly complex," said Zach Iscol, the commissioner of New York City Emergency Management. "There's over 50 cars on the roof. The building is not structurally sound. You think about hazardous materials that are in that, in the garage, right? Gas tanks, fluids, further complicated by the fact that there are possibly some electric vehicles in that garage."

The city's Sheriff Department uses the garage to park their vehicles, six of which were inside at the time of the collapse.

The FDNY used drones and its robotic dog to search for signs of life. On Wednesday, the FDNY's tactical command was on scene continuing the investigation.

"Our engineers deployed and currently checking adjoining buildings and observing footage from drone pictures to identify possible reason for collapse," said Kazimir Vilenchik, acting commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

Watch Jessica Moore's report

Body of worker killed in NYC parking garage collapse removed from building 03:04

Flatbed tow trucks spent hours Wednesday transporting the vehicles that were pulled from the rubble to a lot. They have to be watched for at least 24 hours, and hybrid and electric vehicles have to be observed for 48 hours, to make sure they will not catch fire.

Many drivers who spoke to CBS2 are trying to file insurance claims without access to their cars.

"They need proof, which, police told me to show them social media, so... But they said they have dozens of calls coming in," Raju said.

As crews continue to work, the city is monitoring the air for asbestos, which they say is currently below the legal limit.

The demolition is expected to last up to two weeks.

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