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December 03, 2016 02:00 PM

Building Collapses In Downtown Sioux Falls; 1 Dead, 1 Rescued

Sioux Falls, SD

It was a day filled with shock, fear, sadness and some happiness. 

On Dec. 2, 2016, the former Copper Lounge building collapsed in Downtown Sioux Falls, SD. One person died, another was injured and two dogs were rescued. 

The collapse happened around 10:30 a.m. near the corner of East 10th Street and South Phillips Ave.  

The Timeline

Immediately, rescue crews surrounded downtown, searching for any survivors. 

The woman first rescued, 22-year-old Emily Fodness, was talking with her mother at the time of the collapse, who then quickly got ahold of officials. 

"She doesn't know where she's at. She doesn't know if she's upside down or right side up. She's disoriented because of her fall," Fire Chief Jim Sideras said.

Nearly 2 and a half hours after the building collapses, a sign of hope for bystanders — a dog was rescued. 




Fodness was rescued a short time later. 


Her parents watched as their daughter was rescued.


She's listed in good condition and officials said she suffered from some sort of leg injury. Her family released this statement:

“We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers for our daughter, Emily, and our family. We are thankful that Emily is in good condition and ask for privacy at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the other individual affected in this accident and their family, along with the emergency men and women who worked diligently to make sure Emily was safe.”
-Mike and Chris Fodness

“I felt something first, before I heard it,” said Urban Archeology owner Erin Castle. “I felt the rumble. Then I heard the sirens right after that." 

Castle was used to the construction happening in the area, and her first thought after the building went down was the safety of the construction workers.

“I walked with a gentleman who was going to work on the building himself," Castle says. "My first thought was of this young man who held the door open for me. I thought of him.”

Fortunately, the worker she had met was safe from the collapse. 

However, the search and rescue effort was continuing for the missing construction worker. Sioux Falls Fire had a majority of their units in downtown for the effort, while they requested mutual aid from neighboring communities to support the rest of the city. 

Rapid City Fire also sent six members of their Heavy Rescue Team and K-9 search dog Cisco. 

As darkness fell, the spotlights were turned on. Crews used cameras to search for the missing construction worker. 

After more than seven hours of searching, it was announced shortly before 6 p.m., the body of the construction worker had been found in the rubble. He has been identified as Ethan McMahon.


Nearly 11 hours after the building collapsed, Sioux Falls Police say another dog was rescued at the scene. 

Reaction

In a statement after the body of a construction worker was found, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether shared his thoughts:

“Thank you to everyone for your prayers for these victims and their families. I also commend the first responders and others working to save as well as find these two victims. Finally, the family of the young man who passed needs to know they are not alone tonight in their sadness,” said Huether.

Earlier in the day, South Dakota's Congressional delegation shared their thoughts on social media. 


Eyewitnesses 

It was a busy mid-morning in Downtown Sioux Falls when the building collapsed. 

Boyd McPeek had a curbside view from inside the Coffea coffee shop across the street. He was just as surprised by what happened as the rest of the community. 

"I just happened to glance out the window and I saw the front door fall out and a cloud of dust," McPeek said. 


The collapse left the people in the coffee shop speechless, McPeek said. 

"It was kind of slow motion as the bricks were falling," McPeek said. 

The Investigation

A cause of the collapse hasn't been determined, but an explosion was ruled out early on. 

Joe Batcheller, Executive Director of Downtown Sioux Falls, speculated that the construction work weakened the nearly 100-year-old building, causing the building to collapse. 

The building was built in 1916 according to city records. It's owned by Boomerang Investments LCC. 

There were plans to renovate the first floor of the building to a 4,800 square foot retail space for Lewis Drug. The plans also called to expand the area of the existing Copper Lounge into part of the old Skelly's area. 

Sioux Falls City Building Services approved a limited permit authorizing Hultgren Construction to remove interior finishes such as furnishings, floor coverings, ceiling tiles, and an existing bar area.

However, Hultgren Construction posted this picture on Nov. 30 on its Facebook page of a wall it was taking down between the Copper Lounge and Skelly's.  After today's collapse, Hultgren removed the photo.

The city was waiting for structural engineering and architectural submittals from the builder before issuing authorization to begin any further work on the project, according to city officials.

The city said in a statement "the cleanup process will continue into the weekend." No other details on the investigation were released. 

Photos

 

The entire KELOLAND News staff contributed to this report. 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Grammatical errors were corrected in this story.

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