Crews Search For Missing In Building Collapse

Dec 2, 2016

One woman is alive after being trapped in a collapsed building in Sioux Falls, and crews are searching for a man they believe is underneath the rubble. The building used to be home to the Copper Lounge. It was under construction and included business and living spaces.

The intersection of 10th Street and Phillips Avenue usually hums with the sound of traffic. Now it rumbles as a payloader scratches the pavement and bobcat scrapes boards and broken materials into piles. Machines tow a car from underneath bricks that tumbled down when a building collapsed.

Christopher Reistroffer lives nearby. He says it began Friday morning in one unsettling moment.

"I was in the middle of my loft editing, and I heard this very loud ‘boom’ noise. It was very startling," he says. "It wasn’t a lot of different noises. It was just one loud, impactful boom."

Reistroffer heard a building fall.

Sioux Falls / December 2, 2016
Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Hours pass. Debris pushes into the street. Electrical wires and plumbing string together fractured studs of what used to be walls. A toilet hangs over the rubble, a bathroom suspended above rescue crews searching for two people below.

Rescue crews pull a dog from the wreckage. Milo survives. Then they gather more responders, pass a backbrace up the pile, and soon carry a woman across the debris. Her legs are hurt, but she’s alive. Onlookers yell and clap.

Rescue crews have little time to celebrate. They send the 22-year-old to the hospital and resume clearing debris. They use cameras to snake through the ruins and a scent dog to try to find a man still missing. They heard him tapping in the morning, but it’s been hours since they had any contact with him.

Crews are taking shifts in the cold for safety. Engineers are on site, because both sides of the building collapsed and may threaten nearby structures.

Sioux Falls / December 2, 2016
Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Regan Smith is the emergency manager for Sioux Falls. He says engineers are gauging the stability of the area including nearby businesses.

"The old Skelly’s building, that south wall is definitely compromised, and our structural technicians are watching that and watching it change – and our safety officers, as well," Smith says.

Smith says agencies are coordinating their work to keep first responders out of danger as they work to save others.

The area near the collapse in Downtown Sioux Falls is blocked off. The building was originally constructed in 1916 and was under planned renovation. Authorities say they can’t speculate on what caused the collapse.

UPDATE: Crews set up lights at the scene so they could continue the search after dark. Shortly before 6 p.m., rescue workers recovered the body of a man trapped inside the rubble. More information from the fire chief is available here.

Friday morning, SDPB was on the scene of the building collapse. Kealey Bultena gave Chris Laughery a live update at 12 p.m. as crews began the rescue effort. Hear that conversation below.

Downtown Sioux Falls
Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB