Cranes being deployed at rescue site (John Henrehan / FOX 5 WTTG)
Cranes are being deployed in warehouse rescue operation (John Henrehan / FOX 5 WTTG)
LANDOVER, Md. -
Enormous cranes have been brought to the site of a roof collapse at a huge document storage center near Cheverly, Md. One worker inside the facility has been missing since around 10 p.m. Thursday.
Rescue officials believe a forklift operator bumped into a very tall shelf full of boxed documents, knocking over the shelf. A "domino effect" resulted, with some of the shelves knocking down beams that support the building's roof.
A spokesman for the Recall Corporation, which operates the huge warehouse, said about a dozen employees evacuated safely. One employee is unaccounted for.
Overnight, rescue teams tried to wade through the debris inside the building in an effort to find an employee who was believed to have been operating another forklift. (All the forklifts inside, according to one rescuer, are enclosed in metal cages.)
But beams and outside walls in the building kept shifting, prompting rescue managers to pull canine search units back outside.
A group of cranes has now been brought to the site. One of them, according to Prince George's Co. Fire/EMS Chief Marc Bashoor, is capable of cutting downward from the roof of the building. The plan is to clear safe paths for search and rescue parties (and dogs) to get back inside to search for the missing man. Chief Bashoor says the operation may take days.
Rescuers searched through the night, but failed to locate a worker missing after the roof collapsed.
About 25 workers were inside the building on Cabin Branch Drive when the roof fell in around 10 p.m. Thursday.
All but the one worker got out safely. A gaping hole could be seen from the roof, while a rear and side wall buckled.
"You can actually stand there and hear the creaking and cracking going on and there are gaps that are getting wider and wider," said Mark Brady, spokesman for Prince George's County fire and rescue.
Co-workers were able to pinpoint the area where the man was last seen. Collapse teams went in, focusing on the area and used K-9 units looking to pick up a scent of the missing man in areas too dangerous for rescuers to reach. By early morning, the collapse team pulled out as conditions worsened.
"The stability of this structure, of this building, is deteriorating and it's really unsafe to enter," said Brady.
The building is used by Recall, a document storage company. The warehouse contains wall to wall shelves, from floor to ceiling, with boxes of documents that toppled over.
The man was last working in an area identified by the fire department as Aisle 6, in the immediate area of the collapse. Outside, near the loading docks boxes of documents, tangled wires and metal crashed down and burst through the bay door.
Rescuers plan to take down the wall, in hopes of reaching the man still alive. So far firefighters have seen no signs of life.
"We have checked with his family. He has not been seen nor heard of. His car remains here in the parking lot his cell phone goes directly to voicemail," said Brady.
Firefighters called in a structural engineer to help stabilize the building so rescuers could resume the search. Heavy equipment was also brought in to try and dig through the rubble. Investigators believe a worker using forklift may have struck one of the shelves in the warehouse that led to the roof collapse.
"That started a domino effect, where the shelves began to fall, eventually striking support beams for the roof causing that to collapse and the walls buckling under the weight of the collapse," Brady said describing what happened.
The man's wife had been at the warehouse during the night and many co-workers remained behind. It's expected to be some time, before the building is stabilized and considered safe enough to go back in.
As of now, fire officials say this remains a rescue operation.