Collapse at Ohio Casino Site Hurts a Dozen

By LISA CORNWELL | January 30, 2012

A section of floor collapsed Friday at the construction site of a new casino, sending workers tumbling 30 feet to the ground and leaving about a dozen with minor injuries.

The collapse comes on the heels of a similar accident last month at a Cleveland, Ohio, casino with the same developer.

A crew was pouring a section of concrete floor Friday when an underlying support beam “sheared away,” fire Chief Richard Braun said.

“The floor came down in what we call a ‘V’ collapse, and all the workers were on top of it,” Braun said. “They basically rode the ‘V’ down.” No one was underneath the 60-foot by 60-foot section of floor.

The injured were sent to hospitals with mostly bruises and bumps, and possibly some broken bones, the fire chief said. All workers were accounted for, said Steve Rosenthal, of casino co-developer Rock Gaming LLC, in a statement.

Jessie Folmar, a spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co., said the company was trying to learn what happened Friday.

Messer has a clean safety record with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2006, according to information from the agency’s database. Its last Ohio incident was in that year, when it was penalized for four serious violations and paid a penalty of $3,125. One involved a lack of adequate fall protection for workers.

OSHA inspectors as well as investigators from the state were at the site looking into the accident. The developers said work won’t resume until the construction team and authorities say it is safe.

The collapse occurred on what will be the casino’s second floor and sent the workers sliding to the floor below, said Jason Mullins, business manager for a union representing ironworkers on the project, but not the workers who were hurt. The framework was over one-third complete, Mullins said.

Fire Chief Braun said as many as 13 people were hospitalized, while police department spokesman Lt. Maurice Robinson said 11 were taken to hospitals. Braun explained the discrepancy by saying two people may have taken themselves to hospitals.

The casino is being developed by Rock Gaming in partnership with Caesar’s Entertainment. The same team is behind a casino project in downtown Cleveland where a garage partially collapsed on Dec. 16. A 60-foot by 60-foot second-level section of the parking deck gave way while concrete was being poured. No one was injured.

There is “absolutely zero connection” between the collapse in Cincinnati and the accident in Cleveland, Rosenthal said. “These are two different construction management companies, two different contractors, two different sites, two different areas.”

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati is a $400 million development under construction in the northeast corner of the city’s center and is expected to open in spring 2013, an official with the company told an Ohio House panel at a hearing this week. The casino is supposed to attract nearly 6 million visitors and create 1,700 jobs, said Lee Dillard, vice president of finance for the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. It will feature three outward-facing restaurants, about 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games and a 31-table World Series of Poker room.

Casino development was touted during a statewide legalization campaign in 2009 for the immediate boost it would give to Ohio’s economy, particularly through the temporary construction jobs needed to build the four new facilities in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. According to a recent report from the Associated General Contractors of America, construction jobs indeed rose in Ohio this past year – from 163,400 in December 2010 to 168,600 last month.

(Associated Press reporters Doug Whiteman, Julie Carr Smyth and Ann Sanner in Columbus and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.)

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