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Man Trapped 2 Hours by Collapse of Car Dealer’s Floor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A wooden mezzanine at a car auction dealership collapsed Thursday, injuring one man on the first floor and trapping his son-in-law, a local college football coach, for more than two hours while rescuers worked to free him.

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The 20-by-30-foot plywood mezzanine had been filled with six-foot-high stacks of documents at the California Auto Dealers Exchange at 1320 N. Tustin Ave., employees said.

The archive might have been overloaded, causing the mezzanine floor to crack open about 2:30 p.m. and dumping tons of paper onto the bottom office, said Steve Magliocco, a division chief for the Anaheim Fire Department.

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Contractors Darrell Davis of Orange and his son-in-law, Benny Rapp, 50, of Seal Beach were remodeling the first-floor office when the accident happened, said Richard Viereck, an operations supervisor for the auto exchange.

“I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden that second floor collapsed, all the paper came down and water from the broken pipes was everywhere,” Viereck said.

No citation was issued Thursday, but the accident will be investigated for possible building code violations, said Otto Merkut, a city building inspector.

Firefighters from throughout the county, who are part of the joint Urban Search and Rescue Team, were able to pull Davis out immediately. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange with a broken right leg, Magliocco said.

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Rapp was thrown onto a desk, and his left leg was pinned by piles of paper and wood, rescuers said. More debris lay between him and the door.

Firefighters said Rapp was fortunate that part of the collapsed floor caught a lot of the debris that could have crushed him.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Magliocco said.

About 150 workers at the plant were evacuated and power to the building was shut off during the rescue.

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After removing hundreds of the blue binders of computer records and using a chain saw to cut through the wood, rescuers carried Rapp out about 4:55 p.m.

His wife, 38-year-old Paula Rapp, who is Davis’ daughter, rushed up to kiss her smiling husband lying on a stretcher and rode with him to Kaiser Permanente Hospital-Orange County in Anaheim.

Benny Rapp, a longtime football coach at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, also is in charge of the college’s fitness analysis lab.

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“He’s very athletic,” said his son, Eddie Rapp. “He jogs and lifts weights.”

Eddie Rapp said he spoke with his father Thursday night.

“He’s sore,” Eddie Rapp said. “His legs are sore, but he’s OK. . . . He said he would never want to be in that situation again.”

“We’re just being careful sending him there because it looks like (Benny Rapp) only suffered minor cuts and scrapes,” Magliocco said.

Paula Rapp’s sister, Sheri Blalock, 32, said: “The Lord was watching over both of them. They could have been killed.”


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