LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A photo taken by a tenant of the Marine Towers West high-rise apartment building sheds new light on the condition of the parking garage — and its support system — in the hours leading up to last week’s collapse. Although the collapse did not result result in any injuries or deaths, it remains the subject of an investigation by Lakewood city officials who said permits had not been issued for ongoing construction activities at the site.
Stephen Myers, a tenant at Marine Towers West, provided News 5 a photo that he took the night before the parking garage suddenly collapsed. The photo, which Myers also provided to Lakewood city officials, provides the first glimpse into the garage, which “pancaked” onto itself shortly before 10 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Myers said he was in the garage taking trash to the dumpster last Wednesday evening when he noticed the concrete collars forming the outside of two support columns appeared to have been cut away. The support columns were on the lower level of the garage and located on the left side, precisely in the area that collapsed, he said.
“I noticed that there was actually exposed rebar at the bottom of those pillars. Specifically, half of that rebar wasn’t anchored into anything,” Myers said. “It gave me [a bad feeling] so I took a picture of it. I was going to report it the next day and the building managed to do that on its own.”
The previous month, Myers said he noticed the concrete at the bottom of the pillars had begun to deteriorate and large cracks had begun to form. The unnamed construction crew, who the city alleges were operating without a permit, had been working at the parking garage, which was built in 1963, in the two weeks leading up to the collapse. Additionally, Lakewood Mayor Meghan George said construction crews were on-site when the collapse occurred.
It remains unclear what role, if any, the construction activity had on the garage collapse and whether the exposed or missing rebar support had a role in the catastrophic failure. Numerous vehicles were crushed, including Myers’ Mazda.
“The [drivers side] headrest where I would have been was bent down by the roof collapsing,” Myers said. “I almost would have certainly died if I had decided to go get Starbucks that morning.”
Fortunately for Myers, he elected to sleep in on Thursday morning and was awakened by the convoy of fire trucks and emergency vehicles that descended on the property. However, Myers said property management did not notify him that his car was totaled in the collapse nor did management notify him where his crushed, mangled vehicle was. Instead, Myers said he had to contact Lakewood police, who directed him to where his vehicle was being stowed.
In fact, Myers said the only communication that he has received from his landlord was the automated text message telling him to evacuate the building on Thursday morning.
“They still haven’t said sorry about putting my life at risk, which is just frustrating on a human level,” Myers said. “I understand that there are a lot of logistics involved, but you put somebody’s life at risk, you should apologize. Someone is clearly culpable for this. Someone clearly made an error in judgment here. There needs to be some sort of responsibility for it, in spite of the fact that no one was injured. That fact is astonishing to me.”
Neither the property management company nor the owners of Marine Towers West have responded to repeated requests for comment. Myers has provided the photo depicting the condition of the support columns to Lakewood police detectives.
“People keep saying that it’s a miracle that no one was hurt or killed and it’s very true. People are going through that area at all hours,” Myers said. “The part of the basement area that collapsed is where the dumpsters are. Not only are people going through there to get to their cars, they’re walking through there with no protection whatsoever. It’s amazing to me that no one was injured or killed.”