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What caused the collapse of a parking lot in Parma?

PARMA, Ohio (WJW) — What caused a section of a parking lot to collapse in an underground garage at a Parma apartment complex late Tuesday night?

A team of investigators from the city of Parma is now trying to answer this troubling question. It happened at 11:45 p.m. at the Regency Apartments in the 5800 block of Laurent Drive.

Nicholas Schultz lives in the complex and says he heard a crumbling noise in the parking lot and decided to get out and investigate. He saw that a car had just stopped and parked next to his car, but he couldn’t believe what he saw next.

“Within about a minute I saw the garage collapse and both vehicles were then hung from the parking lot,” he said.

Shultz told FOX 8 that the only thing preventing his car and the other vehicle from falling into the underground garage below was the fact that the front and rear bumpers rested on the garage’s steel ceiling beams.

Luckily no one was in danger when the parking lot collapsed and no one was hurt.

“That was my first thought was to make sure no one was down, I was listening for the screams or something, I was making sure people who had just gotten out of their vehicles were okay too,” Schultz said.

The Parma Fire Department is currently investigating the cause of the failure of the supports holding the parking lot together, which looks suspiciously like the parking lot collapse at the Marine Towers West apartment complex in Lakewood in December 2021.

Picture WJW

“Each part of the parking structure has a cement deck between it and then it’s held up by metal beams, there was a failure in there. It could be a force of the weight of the vehicles themselves, the weight of the bridge itself, and then the age that always plays a role in everything,” Parma Fire Department spokesman TJ Martin said.

Firefighters say the parking lot foundation and building foundation are separate and they maintain the apartment complex itself is structurally sound. What is interesting about the parking terrace above the underground car park is that at some point the operators of the complex decided to permanently close a large part of the terrace.

“The engineering models at the time these buildings were constructed were not as polished as they are now, and I believe at some point they determined that it would not support the weight what it was designed for, and on an abundance of attention, the management company said ‘we’re not going to park there anymore,’” Martin said.

Residents say there have been a number of issues with parking over the years and they have made formal complaints to the management company that owns the resort.

A tenant, who asked not to be identified, told FOX 8, “There’s been water running through that ceiling for a while now, and there’s also cracks all over the floor, on the walls, and a part of the ground is raised.”

The resident says the parking lot collapse was an imminent accident.

“I mean you can’t walk into the garage without knowing something is wrong, you see puddles on the floor caused by water running off, like I said, you see this building, on the ceiling, people’s cars are covered in limestone deposits because of this, there’s no way they don’t know about it,” he said.

Investigators are checking the building’s inspection history, operated by the owner’s Bedford Heights-based management company. The company did not respond to our request for an interview or statement.

“It’s something you never thought would happen, so they don’t get inspected on a regular basis, the management companies themselves do it. And with the failure of a component, it’s not necessarily something which is going to be noticed at some point,” said TJ Martin.

Authorities are now making arrangements to remove the two cars which are hanging by their bumpers over the large hole in the parking lot, so they can do a more thorough assessment of the damage and identify the exact cause of the collapse .

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins