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Man pulled from rubble of collapsed Florida garage

MIAMI -- A construction worker was pulled out alive from under a huge slab of concrete early Thursday, 13 hours after a parking garage collapsed at a Florida college, killing two others. One worker was still unaccounted for and rescuers said they expected to find another body in the rubble.

The survivor, whose name and age were not released, was in "extremely critical condition," and was to be transported by helicopter to a trauma center, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Louie Fernandez.

Reporters and onlookers who were kept across the street from the collapsed garage could see the man being carried on a stretcher from the rubble to an awaiting ambulance and then driven away. He was accompanied by two physicians who had been treating him with and IV and oxygen during the hours he was trapped.

The worker was located by rescuers who heard his cries from amid the rubble not long after the roof of the five-story garage fell, creating a pancake-style collapse.

Three people were initially trapped in the rubble, including one of the two workers who died, said Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Griselle Marino. A third man was pulled out alive and brought to a hospital shortly after the collapse Wednesday. A video shot by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue and provided to The Associated Press showed four firefighters pulling him out from under a steel beam. His face and hands were bloody and he was put on a stretcher and carried away.

Seven workers were brought to the hospital with unidentified injuries while an eighth was treated on the scene and sent home.

No students were in the area at the time. The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week. Investigators planned to pick through the rubble to see what caused the garage to crumble.

"We just know that the roof collapsed," Marino said.

One worker was still unaccounted for, and authorities expected to find at least one more body in the rubble, said Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief David Downey. Late Wednesday, a man at the scene who declined to identify himself said he believed his brother, who was working at the garage at the time of the collapse, was still inside somewhere.

Downey said it was highly unlikely anyone left in the rubble would still be alive, and that authorities would now focus on recovery rather than rescue.

Firefighters began packing up their gear after the latest survivor was rescued, but expected to be back by dawn to continue the recovery efforts, Downey said.

Victoria Buczynski of Miami said she saw the collapse while she was working at Gurkha Cigars across the street from the construction site at the Miami-Dade College.

"It fell to the ground like a house of cards," Buczynski said. "The construction workers started running out, screaming. It was loud. Our entire building shook."

William P. Byrne, president and chief executive officer of the garage contractor, Ajax Building Corp., said an internal review was being launched to determine the cause. Byrne said the company would embrace "any additional protocols, policies and procedures that will enhance and ensure the continued priority of safety."

Ground was broken on the $22.5 million project 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. The structure is next to the college's main office building and nestled among other campus buildings.

The college serves about 8,000 students and is one of several campuses in the Miami-Dade College system. This campus opened in 2006.


Associated Press