Texas Engineering Board Probing Cowboys’ Practice Facility Failure

May 11, 2009

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers is investigating the May 2 collapse of the Dallas Cowboys’ indoor practice facility, the agency’s spokesman said.

Lance Kinney said the board has opened several lines of inquiry related to the failure of the membrane-style building, which fell during heavy winds and injured 12 people, but declined to discuss details.

The board typically deals with whether an engineer is licensed and qualified, and whether the plans are up to code, Kinney said.

The Dallas Morning News, which first reported the investigation, said the probe includes issues related to the city of Irving’s oversight of the project, which was initiated in 2003.

Records released by the city did not include the name of the engineer who signed off on the design, nor did they include the building’s specifications or blueprints. The documents should have been retained for the life of the building, the newspaper reported.

A spokeswoman for the city declined comment.

One of the injured people was permanently paralyzed when the 88,000-square-foot structure collapsed during what the National Weather Service described as a microburst – a downdraft of 70 mph or more.

The facility was designed and built by Summit Structures LLC of Allentown, Pa., just months after a similar building erected by the company for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority collapsed. The 102,000-square-foot warehouse collapsed during a snowstorm less than two months after it opened.

Summit ultimately agreed to pay the port $4.8 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the accident, according to a confidential agreement between the parties in 2007. The agreement was made public on May 8.

Summit and the port reached the agreement after a judgment of $5.1 million was entered against the company. Common Pleas Court Judge Allan Tereshko determined that the building collapsed in conditions “that would have easily been tolerated … had (the building) been properly designed and constructed.”

As part of their settlement, Summit and the port agreed that the document would not be construed as an admission that Summit or its sister company, Cover-All Building Systems, engaged in wrongdoing. The parties also agreed that neither would communicate negative information about the other.

Summit’s spokeswoman declined comment on the settlement.

Court records show that the port warehouse was one of at least three fabric buildings erected by Summit that collapsed before the Cowboys’ facility fell.

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