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Cause of Vegas Sign’s Collapse Is Unknown

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Engineers on Tuesday sifted through the debris of what had been billed as the world’s tallest sign, trying to determine why the $4-million structure crumpled during a vicious storm.

The top quarter of the 362-foot-tall sign atop the Las Vegas Hilton came crashing to the ground Monday night as winds of 78 m.p.h. raked the Las Vegas Valley. The marquee was designed to withstand winds of 130 m.p.h., a spokeswoman for the builder said.

“We’re absolutely baffled,” said Linda Kring of John Renton Young Lighting & Sign Co.

The storm dumped up to 1.23 inches of rain on some areas of the valley, caused power outages affecting more than 100,000 customers, and left at least a dozen people with minor injuries from falling limbs and blowing debris.

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The most severe damage was at the Hilton, where the top portion of the giant marquee lay in a 30-foot-high pile of twisted steel and rubble. The debris fell on a sidewalk leading to the front of the 3,000-room resort, but no injuries were reported. Police canine units were dispatched to the scene Monday night to make sure no victims were buried in the debris.

Engineers combed through the wreckage and checked inside the damaged sign Tuesday, seeking clues to the cause of the collapse.

Although winds were clocked officially at 78 m.p.h., Kring questioned whether they may have been higher at the top of the sign.

“There’s the question about possible wind shear at the top of the sign,” she said. “What happened at the 362-foot height is what we are trying to determine.”

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Hilton spokeswoman Joanne Eshow said no damage estimate was available. She said the sign, which was completed in January, could likely be rebuilt.

Fire crews were kept busy as the high winds blew down power lines and uprooted trees, igniting fires in many locations. One home was destroyed.


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