For more than 13 hours, Samuel Perez was buried up to his waist under slabs of concrete and steel from a garage that fell Wednesday morning at Miami Dade College. During that time, he was treated with oxygen and received fluids and nourishment through an intravenous tube as rescuers worked frantically to free him, officials said.
About 1 a.m. Thursday, Perez’s legs were amputated, and he was freed and carried by stretcher to a waiting ambulance. From there, he was rushed to a hospital by helicopter.
But the damage to his body was too severe. Officials reported later that Perez had died, becoming the third fatality from the collapse of a garage being built on the west campus of the Doral, Fla., college.
Thursday morning, rescuers were back at the scene searching for a fourth worker missing at the site, but there was little optimism that they would find a live person under the tons of debris from the five-story garage.
“It’s saddening because at the end of the day you know we are recovering a deceased person, not a live person,” a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman told reporters. “But we have to give closure to these families.”
Police will handle the investigation into the collapse of the $22.5-million garage, which was scheduled to be completed this year. It was to be able to hold more than 1,800 cars and have a first floor for classroom and office space.
“At this time, we are properly focused on the tragic loss of life and the well being of anyone injured and on helping the families involved,” said William P. Byrne, president and chief executive of Ajax Building Corp., the chief contractor of the project.
In his statement, he pledged an internal review of the accident and said the company would work with all state and federal authorities to find the reason the structure fell from the top down in what officials call a pancake collapse.
Authorities were notified that the structure had fallen about 11:40 a.m. on Wednesday. More than 100 rescuers rushed to the scene, bringing ambulances, equipment and search dogs.
At least 11 people were injured – not including the missing worker who is still being sought. Seven people were taken to hospitals with various injuries, some identified as serious. One person was treated and released at the scene, officials said.
Besides Perez, two of those pulled from the site and taken to hospitals died from their wounds. Police identified them as Jose Calderon, 60, and Carlos Hurtado De Mendoza, 48.
Another man was pulled out safely, according to a video shot by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue and provided to the Associated Press. Four firefighters are shown pulling him out from under a steel beam, face and hands bloody.
Perez’s cries for help were heard by rescuers who worked past midnight to successfully rescue him, only to hear later that he had died at a trauma center.