Official: No One Under New Jersey Parking Garage Rubble

July 19, 2010

New Jersey authorities called off a rescue mission at a partly collapsed parking garage Saturday after determining that no one had been trapped when a glass canopy attached to a high-rise condominium building fell the day before, a fire official said.

Hackensack Deputy Fire Chief Steve Kalman told reporters that rescuers dug through debris overnight to reach the vehicles feared to contain occupants. But when searchers got to the cars, they didn’t find anyone inside, he said.

The three-story garage in Hackensack pancaked Friday morning when the canopy fell on it. The top of the garage, level with the street, was littered with dirt, debris and glass, and the pavement split into chunks.

Rescuers needed to clear debris and shore up the structure before attempting a rescue.

Using a remote camera and a robot earlier in the day, rescuers earlier reported seeing one victim in a car on the first level down but couldn’t get to the person because they were concerned about the possibility of another collapse at the three-story garage.

Kalman didn’t immediately explain the discrepancy.

Authorities also had been checking out whether a second person might be trapped. Surveillance cameras detected another car on an exit ramp two levels down around the time of the collapse, but rescuers were unable to determine if someone was inside.

It’s unclear why the canopy fell from the 22-year-old building, which is next to the garage. Several residents said workers had uprooted a tree between the street and the building within the past few months, and that a leak in the basement was being fixed.

Resident Chris Baldo was in his first-floor unit when he felt the building shake. He looked out his window and the garage “was just gone,” he said.

All residents were evacuated as a precaution and weren’t expected to be allowed to return before Sunday at the earliest, fire Lt. Stephen Lindner said.

Tax records show the condo tower was built in 1988. Equity Residential Properties of Chicago bought it in 1998 for $36.3 million.

Marty McKenna, a spokesman for Equity Residential, said the building owner did not have much information yet about what happened.

Police were checking with the building management company for a list of tenants, but no one was reported missing so far, Chief Tomas Padilla said.


Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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