As the efforts to recover the body of a fourth worker continue in the rubble Friday, contractors have acknowledged that a crane struck an under-construction Miami Dade College parking garage just two days before it collapsed.
Managing contractor Ajax Building Corporation president Bill Byrne confirmed the incident to reporters Friday morning, but also emphasized it is too soon to suggest it might have contributed to the structure's collapse.
"It's my understanding, an incident where the crane bumped a column, it didn't cause any damage to the column," Byrne said, as reported by NBC6. "The crane was repaired and inspected and was recertified. The engineers, it's my understanding, looked at the column, deemed it perfectly fine."
According to the Miami Herald, Byrne described the column as belonging to the outer part of the garage, but didn't clarify whether it was in the portion that collapsed Wednesday morning.
“Speculation does not help the process,” Byrne said. "Now we need to let OSHA do their job.”
Only one quadrant of the pre-cast five-story garage, which was being built with four parking levels above ground-floor classroom space, gave way.
Of the dozens of workers estimated to have been inside, two were killed immediately, another died in hospital hours after his legs were amputated in order to extract him early Thursday morning, and the final man unaccounted for, 53-year-old Robert Budhoo, is believed dead in a hard-to-reach spot K-9s identified Wednesday afternoon. Others were less seriously injured.
The effort to recover Budhoo's body has been slowed because a crane is being used to painstakingly move layers of concrete and steel one by one, and officials are determined to ensure recovery personnel are not harmed during the dig.
"We must conduct the search as safely and efficiently as possible, which is a complicated task at this site, but necessary for the safety of the rescue workers," said Miami-Dade Det. Javier Baez in a statement.
Budhoo had only been on the job several weeks, his family said, and worked for an electrical subcontractor on the project.
Byrne, who confirmed Miami Dade College's own building team had been inspecting the project, noted hundreds of garages have been constructed in the same manner.
"We have no reason to believe there's any concern with the process," he said, after pledging transparency in the investigation to determine what happened.
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