Hours-long search through rubble of building collapse ends with no victims found

The collapse happened at a seven-story occupied building at 1915 Billingsley Terrace in Morris Heights, the Bronx on Monday.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Hours-long search turns up no victims after partial building collapse
Jim Dolan has the latest details on the partial building collapse.

MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) -- After an hours-long search through the rubble of a partial building collapse in the Bronx, officials found no victims.

The collapse happened at a seven-story occupied building at 1915 Billingsley Terrace around 3:30 p.m.

Firefighters spent hours searching a pile of debris that was 12 feet high in spots, the fire department reported on social media late Monday night. No victims were found but two people suffered minor injuries while evacuating the damaged building, the department said.

The collapse, which happened at the corner of the building, left apartments exposed like a stack of shelves and a convenience store partly buried under bricks and wood.

A worker at a nearby deli, Julian Rodriguez, said he was behind the counter when he heard people screaming about a building collapse.

"When I went outside, all you could see is the debris and a smoke cloud in the street," said Rodriguez, 22. "And you could see inside the structure: people's beds, their doors, closets, lights, everything. It was really scary."

Eyewitness News obtained surveillance video of people on the street running from the gathering cloud of dust and smoke kicked up by the collapse.

Citizen App video taken shortly after the collapse showed the corner of the building with its walls sheared off and floors sagging, a heap of debris spilling out into the street.

First responders are on the scene of a partial building collapse in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx Monday afternoon.

From the street, onlookers could see into the apartments. In one, a bed stood feet away from the edge of a floor that now jutted out into the air; in another, art hanging on the wall was visible. Elsewhere, an armchair rested on a floor that tilted precariously down, like the top of a staved-in box. The picture of what appeared to be a servicemember hung on a wall.

Officials say firefighters arrived on the scene within two minutes, quickly evacuating all people from the partially collapsed building, which contains 47 residential units and six businesses.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh told Eyewitness News at 5:00 p.m. that the active search for anybody that may be trapped would continue as long as necessary. Kavanagh said that firefighters are trained for these situations using rubble pile at the academy.

Current FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh joins Eyewitness News to discuss the new technology being used in the rescue efforts.

A search dog plied the pile, which included twisted and jumbled metal, apparently from scaffolding, and a robotic dog also headed into the debris.

Firefighters carted away rubble in buckets and used circular saws to cut through the collapsed scaffolding, and an excavator clawed through the rubble.

"We're tunneling into that debris pile as safely as we can," FDNY Chief John Hodgens said. "Firefighters right now are in a dangerous position. We don't know what caused this corner of this building to come down. We don't know if any of it is going to come down."

Adjacent buildings at 178 and 182 West Burnside Avenue were also searched with no victims located. Officials said crews would continue searching for potential victims until they found someone or confirmed that no one was under the rubble.

NYC officials hold update on semi-collapsed building in the Bronx.

The Red Cross assisted 37 households, about 138 residents, displaced by the collapse, and some were directed to a service center set up at a public school up the block.

The Department of Buildings will go in after the search to investigate and determine the stability of the structure.

The Housing Preservation and Development reported 178 complaints in the last two years, and 103 open violations that date back to May of 2019.

Department of Buildings Commissioner James Oddo says that the owner of the building submitted their most recent report in March of 2021, which found seven open violations, including "unsafe facade conditions."

A 2020 inspection found cracked brick and loose, damaged mortar on the building's facade, Buildings Department records show. Oddo said Monday that work had started but he didn't believe any workers were there at the time of the collapse.

"I want to be clear: Unsafe facade conditions is not the same as an unsafe building," he said at the news conference. While the property had seven unresolved violations, they weren't structural, he said. Five of them were Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) and Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations, while the other two were DOB violations.

He says work was being done on the building as recently as a few days ago.

The partial building collapse also impacted the commute.

Metro North Hudson line service was suspended in both directions between Grand Central and Spuyten Duyvil for a brief time. Two bus routes, the Bx40 and Bx42, were detoured. Customers can see the latest service information via the MyMTA app and their website.

WATCH | Retired NYPD Chief of Detectives reacts to Morris Heights building collapse

Retired NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce joins Eyewitness News to discuss the partial building collapse in the Bronx Monday afternoon.

Some information from The Associated Press


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