Fla. Garage Project That Suffered Fatal Collapse Remains in Limbo
Despite legal settlements reached in late April between builders and the families of workers killed or injured in the collapse of a $22.5-million Miami Dade College parking garage project, the school remains unsure where or when it may rebuild the structure—or what firms may handle the work.
On May 1, law firms representing the victims' families announced the settlement with the following statement: "The families of the four workers who lost their lives ... and the defendants in these wrongful death and injury lawsuits jointly announce that these matters have been amicably resolved for undisclosed amounts of compensation. The terms of these settlements are confidential by agreement between the parties. All parties look forward to better days. There will be no further comment."
The Oct. 10, 2012, collapse killed Robert Budhoo, 53; Jose Calderon, 60; Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48; and Samuel Perez, 53, and injured five others. Three different law firms represented the four men: Grossman Roth, P.A.; Alan Goldfarb, P.A.; and Colson Hicks Eidson.
The project's general contractor commented on the settlement with a statement to ENR: "Ajax Building Corp. is thankful that workers and families affected by the Oct. 10 accident have been able to work together to reach an amicable resolution of legal issues. From the start, our primary concern has been the future of the injured workers and those who lost loved ones in this tragic mishap. As we move forward, Ajax remains committed to determining the specific cause of the accident so steps can be taken to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again."
Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations and proposed penalties totaling $38,360 to five firms involved with the project. The companies included: Ajax, Coreslab Structures, Florida Lemark Corp., MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections, and Solar Erectors.
OSHA spokesman Mike D'Aquino says that of the five firms, only grouting contractor Florida Lemark Corp. has contested its citation and proposed fine of $6,300. The agency cited the Doral, Fla., firm for failing to grout two of the structure's columns. The other four firms accepted OSHA's citations and proposed fines and settled the case, D'Aquino says.
Juan Mendieta, director of communications with Miami Dade College, said the school is still conducting its own investigation into the collapse, which occurred on its West campus in Doral. Mendieta noted that the property had just been released from the control of the Miami-Dade Police Dept. The site currently remains under the control of the contractor, but the school now has access.
As a result, Mendieta says, school investigators "can really roll up our sleeves." MDC hired private firms to lead its investigation, but would not disclose the names of the companies. The school is still evaluating its options for the parking garage, including where or when it will re-start construction.
"There is no schedule for rebuilding the parking garage," he says, adding that MDC hopes to decide the project's status by this fall.
Also yet to be determined is who will build the project. Mendieta says that MDC is still in communication with Ajax, but "given the nature of what happened," the school is also considering whether to hire a different firm.
"We just want to end up with a safe parking garage facility," he adds.
According to attorneys representing the victims, the other firms named in the wrongful-death and injury lawsuits included: Bliss & Nyitray Inc.; Civil Works, Inc.; Consulting Engineering Group; Hadonne Corp.; Harvard Jolly; M.A.R Contracting; and Sims Crane & Equipment.
OSHA has yet to complete its final report on the cause of the collapse. A spokesman with MDPD says its homicide investigation is still ongoing.