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Third victim of Florida garage collapse dies

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 12:03 pm

MIAMI — A third victim of a massive parking garage collapse at a Miami college died Thursday morning, just hours after rescuers pulled him from beneath piles of twisted steel and crumbled concrete, police said.

Samuel Perez, 53, had been trapped in the collapse Wednesday at Miami Dade College. He was beneath the rubble for about 13 hours, communicating with rescuers before he was taken to a hospital. He was first discovered after workers heard his cries, and crews were saddened to hear he had died, said Miami-Dade Police Lt. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz.

Authorities said they no longer expected to find anyone else alive and expected to pull a fourth person from what remained of the five-story structure that had been under construction. One worker was still missing, said Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief David Downey.

"It's saddening because at the end of the day you know we are recovering a deceased person, not a live person," Cordero-Stutz said. "But we have to give closure to these families."

Police identified the other two men who died as Jose Calderon and Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48. They died at hospitals after being rescued. All three of the dead worked for subcontractors of the firm handling the construction of the garage, Ajax Building Corp., said Ajax president and CEO Bill Byrne.

Byrne said during a news conference Thursday that it was not yet known what caused the garage to collapse.

Another man was pulled out alive and brought to a hospital shortly after the collapse, Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Griselle Marino said. A video shot by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue and provided to The Associated Press showed four firefighters pulling him out from under a steel beam. His face and hands were bloody, and he was carried away on a stretcher.

At least seven workers were brought to the hospital with unidentified injuries, while an eighth was treated on the scene and sent home.

There were no students in the area because the garage was under construction. The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week. Investigators planned to pick through the rubble to see what caused the garage to crumble.

Victoria Buczynski of Miami said she saw the collapse while working at Gurkha Cigars across the street from the construction site.

"It fell to the ground like a house of cards," Buczynski said. "The construction workers started running out, screaming. It was loud. Our entire building shook."

Byrne said an internal review was being launched to determine the cause. Byrne said the company would embrace "any additional protocols, policies and procedures that will enhance and ensure the continued priority of safety."

Ground was broken on the $22.5 million project in February, and the 1,855-space garage was to be finished in December, according to Ajax's website. The first floor was to have classroom and office space. The structure is next to the college's main office building and nestled among other campus buildings.

The college serves about 8,000 students and is one of several campuses in the Miami Dade College system. The campus opened in 2006.