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Clearwater parking garage collapse predicted 6 months earlier

CLEARWATER, FL – Months before the parking lot stairwell collapsed, killing a 23-year-old Brandon man, City of Clearwater inspectors declared it an unsafe structure and recommended that it undergo major repairs or that it be demolished.

On Monday, Clearwater police, fire department and building department officials forwarded their reports of the Dec. 20 parking lot collapse to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office for action.

The four-storey car park has remained closed since the collapse that buried Mitchel Klock under tons of concrete. It took workers two days to recover his body.

In a report dated July 19, City Inspector Jason Cantrell said he determined the Plymouth Plaza parking lot at 26760 US 19 N. was an unsafe structure that was “dangerous to life, health, property or public safety”.

In a finding that turned out to be eerily accurate, Cantrell found the garage to be “so damaged, dilapidated, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of faulty construction or unstable foundation that partial or complete collapse is possible” .

The Clearwater Planning and Development Department advised the owner of the garage, Plymouth Plaza LLC of Boca Raton, that the garage “creates a nuisance and is therefore subject to reduction, repair or demolition”.

If the owner chooses to repair the garage, Cantrell said the owner would have to hire a structural engineer to submit a report outlining all repairs. He included a list of structural issues that needed to be addressed, including construction, plumbing, electrical and mechanical repairs.

Cantrell ordered the owner to obtain the necessary permits and begin repairs within seven days of receiving the July 19 notice of an unsafe building from the city.

Cantrell’s report included 50 photos showing areas where concrete had crumbled, metal struts had deteriorated, and pipes and wiring had been compromised.

That same day, Cantrell said he contacted the owner’s representative, Elliot Katz, who said the owner had already hired a structural engineer to inspect the property. Katz said he was just waiting for the engineer to schedule a day for the inspection.

On August 30, Cantrell said he had not heard from Katz and emailed him asking about the status of the engineer’s report.

On October 12, Cantrell reported that he was still awaiting the structural engineer’s report.

Then, on Nov. 24, Cantrell said Katz told him he had found a contractor to do the repair work, though he had yet to submit the required structural engineer’s report.

Cantrell said that was the last communication he had with Katz before the staircase collapsed on Dec. 20.

Klock, an independent contractor who recently started his own welding business and proudly posted the acquisition of his first company truck on his Facebook page, began repairing the staircase on the morning of Monday, December 20. He hired Demoris Matthews to help him. with work.

At 12:26 p.m., Clearwater Fire and Rescue arrived on the scene to find that the concrete stairwell had collapsed. Matthews met firefighters in the parking lot and told them a co-worker was trapped between the collapsed landings.

Matthews was hit by falling debris, but refused to be treated by paramedics at the scene.

In an interview with Clearwater police on January 3, Matthews admitted that neither man wore safety harnesses or shoring while working on the stairs. They were in the process of cutting the rusted metal brackets from the staircase, but had not yet installed the new brackets when the collapse occurred.

Klock and his wife, Alexis, had been married for less than a year, but had been dating since they met in college in 2012. They both graduated from Riverview High School in 2017.

Alexis Klock retained the services of an attorney and says he received a copy of the reports filed by the city on Monday.

Patch left a message for Zev Freidus, who is listed as the sole agent and owner of Plymouth Plaza LLC, asking for a comment on the reports. He hasn’t called back yet.

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Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins