Wrong Answers Continue in the Wake of Walkway Collapse

Over the last week, I’ve blogged about the University of Missouri’s less-than-truthful and evasive responses to questions and concerns raised about its safety inspection process in the wake of the February 22nd apartment walkway collapse that killed Columbia firefighter Bruce Brit. Insofar as I reviewed the history of the University’s misleading statements and inaction relative to this tragic event yesterday, I won’t repeat the chronology in its entirety here. I do want to point out, though, that on Monday, February 24, University officials sought to assure students and parents of the safety of residential buildings, saying that residential facilities had been inspected in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and only a “few minor problems” had been found. You may also recall that following the collapse, officials said that all University-owned buildings underwent routine safety inspections. On March 3rd, they clarified this statement saying that only academic buildings were inspected on a regular basis.  The University relies on the reports and complaints of students and workers to stay abreast of needed maintenance in the residential facilities.

Earlier this week, St. Louis television station, KSDK, Channel 5, heard from a resident concerned about the structural integrity of the daycare center also housed in the University Village complex. Always quick on the trigger, Christian Basi, spokesperson for the University, responded that the daycare facility had just passed its annual state license renewal with no problems. Unfortunately, no one bothered to ask Basi whether the renewal included certification of the facility’s structural integrity.

Collapse Caused by Expansion-Freeze: Other Walkways in Danger of Imminent Collapse

Now comes the news that a report issued by the independent consulting engineering firm hired by the University following the collapse, Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw, concluded that the collapse was a result of a concrete shear failure along the outer edge of the walkway, likely caused by expansion-freeze action.

Christian Basi sounding way too self-righteous under the circumstances said, “”What they said to us was, had we been out there one week before that happened, we could not have predicted this would have occurred.”


Because that’s a pretty bold assertion for an “independent” engineering firm to make this early in the game. Do you suppose that they meant there was no way of ever predicting the potential for a collapse or just that they couldn’t have guessed it would happen on February 22, 2014?

I hope—at least for the sake of maintaining their “independent” image—the engineering firm meant the latter and that Basi took their comments out of context (wouldn’t be the first time). After all, even though the walkway flipped during the collapse and wasn’t that easy to examine, portions of it were found to be “delaminated”. In layman’s terms this means that the concrete slab didn’t settle completely when it was set, leaving excess air inside the slab. This is not an insignificant structural flaw. Also, Patrick Earney, the author of the report and a structural engineer with Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw, noted that the walkway’s support beams, metal deck and concrete slab were “significantly deteriorated”.  Engineers found significant issues with six other buildings in the complex (I sure hope one didn’t house the daycare). Walkway framing at Buildings 602,604 and 609 were “questionable” according to the report, and the engineers concluded that unless remedial action was taken, a catastrophic collapse could be imminent. (Ummm: What happened to the “only a few minor problems”?)

Then there is the question of a draft of the 2008 University’s Graduate and Family Housing that was released but never finalized that stated the walkways created a “public safety hazard” in their deteriorated state. Other documents released disclosed that Building 707’s walkway received about $4,000 in work last summer, but there were no details about what was done.

Basi said that he didn’t have more information about what was done.

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