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December 02, 2017 11:46 AM

One Year Later: Building Collapses In Downtown Sioux Falls; 1 Dead, 1 Rescued

Sioux Falls, SD

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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.  

This is a recap of that day. We originally wrote this story one year ago, but have updated it with new details in the year since. 



The Timeline


To review previous stories, visit our special coverage page.



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. 

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.



"Buried Alive"

KELOLAND News spoke with Fodness in late December 2016.

Her dramatic rescue was broadcast live on KELOLAND TV as our viewers held their collective breaths minute by minute until she was finally pulled from the rubble. 




You can watch Don Jorgenen's Eye on KELOLAND in the player above. 

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“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 was later identified as Ethan McMahon.


24-year-old McMahon was born and raised in Sioux Falls.

The father of two had just left the Marine Corps after serving in Afghanistan.

KELOLAND News talked to McMahon's father at a fundraiser in Dec. 2016. 

"Ethan was a caring person. He would be the first to help somebody and he would do so with his actions, with his music. I mean from being a little boy up until the day he died. He helped people and it shows," John McMahon said. 

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

During live coverage of the building collapse, KELOLAND News received a photo downloaded from Hultgren Construction's Facebook page that showed workers taking down a load bearing wall.

KELOLAND's Angela Kennecke later discovered the company didn't have the permits to do that. A sub-contractor then came forward and said Hultgren Construction had cutting corners, ignoring safety procedures and was even breaking the law. 

In May, OSHA fined Hultgren Construction more than $200,000 for the violations that led up to Ethan McMahon's death. According to the agency, construction employees were told to remove two load-bearing walls, including the one pictured on Facebook. 

The report had also said the company did not have workers shore up the wall and that engineers did not put together a plan to keep workers safe. In a statement to KELOLAND News back in May, Aaron Hultgren said his company was working with OSHA through this process.

What's Next?

Construction is underway at the site of the former Copper Lounge building. 

downtown Sioux Falls Lewis store Sanford Acute Care PAve

Lewis Drug announced in September it will be in the first floor of the building, along with a Sanford Acute Care Clinic. On the second level, the neighboring bar and restaurant, PAve, will have an indoor/outdoor addition. Lewis officials also said the McMahon family would be involved in the planning process. 

"Everyone involved has been very mindful," Lewis Drug Corporate Vice President Nikki Griffin said.

Back in February Lewis Drug created the McMahon Education Trust to pay for the future education costs of Ethan McMahon's sons. The company gave more than $20,000 in seed donations. They also accept donations from the public. 

Photos

For Christopher Reistroffer, pictures preserve moments. 

Moments of happiness, sadness and moments he'll always commit to memory. 

"People need to know. People need to see things, and that's what I do. I help people see things and remember things," Reistroffer said. 

As a professional photographer, Reistroffer was quick to capture downtown Sioux Falls just after 10 a.m. on December 2, 2016. We talked with him as the year anniversary approached. 

More photos from that day can be seen in the gallery below: 

The entire KELOLAND News staff contributed to this report. 

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