5 people missing, 2 believed to be inside collapsed Iowa apartment building: Officials

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Two people are believed to be inside a partially collapsed apartment building in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport, city officials said Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the rear face of the structure came down.

The two people are part of a group of five that are unaccounted for in the wake of the collapse. The news comes as city officials have offered conflicting information about the possibility of residents still trapped inside the structure and raised questions about the city's timeline for demolishing the building.

"We have five that are unaccounted for and two that we have a firm belief that are potentially still in that building," Davenport police Chief Jeffery Bladel said in a press conference Tuesday morning.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson added: "This is an active incident that is very fluid and ever-evolving. We are consistently evaluating and getting real-time information."

Resident found hours after officials announced plans to demolish building

One resident, Lisa Brooks, was rescued from the fourth floor of the building Monday evening, hours after city officials announced plans to demolish the building.

"Why wasn’t she found earlier?" Matson said. "I am totally transparent with you, I do not know."

Protesters have gathered near the site, calling for the city to delay demolition and continue searching for residents.

"We are very sympathetic to the possibility there's two people ... left inside," Davenport Fire Marshall James Morris said, pausing multiple times to wipe tears from his eyes.

A resident could be heard challenging Morris from across the room during the tense press conference.

"This building does need to come down, and it needs to come down in a controlled manner," Morris said.

Family of missing resident calls for demolition

City officials said they met with two families Monday evening, including the family of Ryan Hitchcock.

Amy Anderson, a relative of Hitchcock, spoke at the press conference. She said she was "extremely close" with Hitchock and believes did not survive the collapse. She urged city officials to move forward with demolishing the building.

"Right now, it is an absolute no-win situation," she said. "We don't want anyone else hurt. And we just want to recover our family."

Anderson said she was "mortified" by protests and did not want demonstrations to "escalate." She called on protesters to "proceed with love."

"Pushing any delays is one more day that he's under there," Anderson said. "Ryan wouldn't want anyone to put their lives at risk."

What happened in Davenport, Iowa?

The downtown apartment building partially collapsed around 5 p.m. Sunday, city spokeswoman Sarah Ott said. First responders helped more than a dozen people evacuate the site, Ott said. There were rescues out of multiple floors and locations in the building, which has 84 residential and commercial units, city officials said.

More than 150 people across numerous agencies responded to the scene, Ott said. Rescue teams worked through Sunday night into Monday morning using thermal imagining, drones and search dogs to attempt to locate victims, Ott said.

That's when rescue teams "located and extricated" a victim, Ott said. "Due to the nature of her injuries and entrapment, extraction took an extended period of time," Ott said.

What did Davenport officials initially say?

Early Monday, Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said there were "no confirmed deaths" and no other people known to be trapped in the building. Ott said the Davenport Fire Department transitioned from rescue operations about 9:45 a.m. Monday, with plans to begin demolition of the remainder of the building on Tuesday.

Ott said that because of the building's shaky condition, residents wouldn't be allowed back inside to retrieve their belongings.

Onlookers watching from beyond temporary fencing and caution tape Monday named several residents of the building they said were unaccounted for. As morning drew on to afternoon, many in the crowd voiced frustration and suspicion about the lack of updates about who had been found.

“I don’t want to come off in a negative way, but things like this, when they transpire and they’re not communicating, this is not winning over the people within the community,” said Antoine Smith Sr., who was awaiting word of an aunt and a close friend who both lived in the building.

Workers secure the area on Monday, May 29, 2023, a day after an apartment building partially collapsed in Davenport.

'An outpouring of support from the community'

There has been "an outpouring of support from the community," Mayor Mike Matson said.

People wishing to make donations may do so through the Salvation Army or the Quad Cities Community Foundation, which has opened the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund to assist displaced residents of the building, Ott said. Donations to the fund may be made online.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday issued a disaster proclamation for Scott County her office said will allow residents affected by the building collapse to receive aid from the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program and the Disaster Case Management Program.

Cause of collapse undetermined, but residents had complained

The cause of the collapse was not immediately known. Rich Oswald, city of Davenport director of development and neighborhood services, said at the Sunday news conference that work was being done at the time of the collapse on the red brick exterior of the building.

Reports of bricks falling from the building earlier this week were part of that work, and the building’s owner had a permit for the project, Oswald said. Oswald said an investigation will begin once the building is cleared.

According to the county assessor’s office, the last permit for the building was filed on March 2 and had “misc” listed in the description. In 2022, nearly 20 permits were filed, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues.

Workers secure the area on Monday, May 29, 2023, a day after an apartment building partially collapsed in Davenport.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Morris reported from Davenport, Iowa. Hauck reported from Chicago.

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