Owner of collapsed Iowa building that killed 3 people files lawsuit blaming engineering company

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — The owner of an Iowa apartment building that collapsed in May, killing three people, has filed a lawsuit that blames an engineering company for not warning the building was structurally unsound and that residents should be evacuated.

Real estate owner Andrew Wold filed the lawsuit last week against Select Structural Engineering, more than three months after the May 28 partial collapse of the building in Davenport, the Quad-City Times reported Sunday. Three men died when one side of the six-story building partially collapsed and crews had to amputate a woman's leg to rescue her from the rubble.

The lawsuit argued Select Structural Engineering didn't identify the risk of collapse, the danger of such a collapse and repairs that would have avoided a collapse.

“At no time did Select Structural opine that the defects in the west wall would require an evacuation of the building,” the lawsuit said. “To the contrary, Select Structural expressly stated that the Davenport Hotel was not in danger of collapse and that no evacuation was necessary.”

Select Structural, based in Bettendorf, Iowa, has declined to comment on the building collapse.

On Monday, the newspaper also reported that more than 2,000 emails released under a public records request included one from a city code enforcement officer to himself. The officer wanted to document a coworker’s comment — two days after the collapse — that the colleague had warned of the danger.

Officer Tom Van De Wiele wrote in the email May 30 that another code enforcement officer, Anthony Haut, showed him pictures of an exterior wall that he said showed the danger. In the email, Van De Wiele wrote, “He was frustrated and whispered to me that ‘the whole side is going to come down.'”

Van De Wiele wrote that he told Haut he should tell supervisors Rich Oswald or Beth Bringolf. But the other code enforcement officer responded “I have and Rich told me to back off and don’t worry about it.”

Van De Wiele wrote that he wanted to “document this for down the road just in case.”

None of those named in the email responded to requests for comment by the Quad-City Times, and Assistant City Attorney Brian Heyer told the newspaper that city employees aren't authorized to respond to such media inquiries.

Since the building collapsed, residents have filed several lawsuits arguing that the building owner, engineering company and city officials were negligent. Documents released by the city made clear that all were aware that the 116-year-old building had structural problems but the engineering company said there wasn't an “imminent threat” to the building or residents.

The remains of the building were cleared in the weeks after the collapse and the downtown site is now bare ground.