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One person died in the collapse of a South Anchorage gym building Friday evening and another was taken to the hospital, an assistant chief with the Anchorage Fire Department said.
Several people were inside the building at the time of the collapse, according to assistant chief Brian Partch, though the exact number wasn’t clear. The building is the site of the Turnagain CrossFit gym on East 76th Avenue, just east of the Old Seward Highway.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, crews determined that three people had been trapped inside, Partch said. One was able to get out of the building on their own, according to assistant chief Alex Boyd.
“That person was interviewed and treated on scene, and released,” he said.
Responders located the second individual, who was trapped inside the debris, Boyd said. Firefighters and members of the department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team worked for about an hour to free them, he said. The trapped person was able to talk to the first responders, according to Partch.
“We had our search and rescue crews jump in, and they started shoring up the building to make it safe for the rescuers and to protect the individual who was trapped in the building,” he said.
Crews were able to “cut the debris away,” remove that person and transport them to a hospital, Boyd said.
The third individual was found dead inside the building, Boyd said. First responders were working with others Friday night, including Municipality of Anchorage engineers, to determine how to stabilize the building to recover the deceased, Partch said.
Responders late Friday night were able to recover the body, which was transferred to the medical examiner’s office, Boyd said Saturday. Authorities have not identified the individual who died, pending notification of their next of kin.
Units from AFD, APD, Building Safety, and Anchorage Street Maintenance are on location of a building collapse on E 76th...Posted by The Anchorage Fire Department on Friday, February 17, 2023
East 76th Avenue was initially closed at the Old Seward Highway, but has since reopened.
Boyd said the Anchorage Fire Department received an initial call just before 5:30 p.m. Friday about the building collapse, and that the department was on the scene within minutes with 18 units and approximately 40 firefighters and other staff.
“It’s a pretty significant collapse, involving many portions of the building itself,” Boyd said.
It’s not exactly clear what caused the collapse, Boyd said. That will be investigated by structural engineers and inspectors over the next few days.
“However, we can speculate that the snow load may have contributed to that collapse, and I know there’s a lot of concern regarding the snow loads,” he said.
“We won’t know more about what actually caused — or how the collapse occurred for some time until the inspectors have completed their review of the incident,” Boyd said.
The fire department, in conjunction with the municipality’s building safety department, is advising building owners to evaluate their own buildings if they’re worried about snow load. Boyd said to watch for any signs of structural overload or impending collapse, such as new cracks in drywall.
People should not attempt to remove snow on their own, Boyd said, but should consult with a professional to evaluate the building.
“If they do have concerns ... they should be working with building engineers,” Boyd said.
About a third of the overall building was involved in the collapse and experienced significant structural damage, Boyd said. Based on the construction of the building, crews are concerned other areas could be impacted.
“With one area of failure, we’re concerned about other areas of failure,” Boyd said.
The other businesses in the building were evacuated Friday night. Whether they’ll be able to reopen will be determined through an evaluation by building engineers, Boyd said, most likely over the next 24 to 48 hours.
The Daily News’ Annie Berman and Emily Mesner contributed reporting.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that two people had been taken to the hospital. One person was taken to the hospital and one person was treated at the scene and released.