- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. on May 28, 2013.
A 57-year-old man from Prince Frederick has been identified as the worker who was killed when part of a garage under construction at the Westfield Montgomery Mall collapsed on him Thursday.
Carroll Dexter Wills, of the 1600 block of Mason Court in Prince Frederick, died while trapped under a 50,000- to 55,000-pound piece of concrete with a steel beam running inside of it.
The identify of a second worker, who survived the collapse, has not been released.
Montgomery County officials have ordered a stop to construction on the garage at the Westfield Montgomery Mall in North Bethesda after a portion of the structure collapsed Thursday afternoon, killing Wills and injuring another man. The two men were working on an area of the mall’s garage under renovation when a concrete slab fell on them, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Graham said. Eighteen other people also were working at the garage outside the Macy’s entrance when the accident happened, Graham said.
The garage was under renovation and not used as parking for mall patrons at the time, spokeswoman Beth Anne Nesselt of the fire and rescue agency said.
A stop-work order and notice of violation has been issued indefinitely for the project and will remain in place until the cause of the collapse can be determined and a solution can be determined, Diane Jones, director of Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting Services, said Tuesday.
A forensic analysis was being done to determine the cause of the collapse, she said.
“We need to determine what happened,” she said.
No timetable has been set for when work on the garage might resume, she said, but first the project’s structural engineer must submit a report specifying where work was taking place, the specific cause of the collapse and steps to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Until then, only work to ensure the stability of the structure can be done, Jones said.
On Friday, Jones said she couldn’t comment on whether there had been any previous complaints or citations issued on the project.
Summar Goodman, a spokeswoman for Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said Tuesday that investigators from Maryland Occupation Safety and Health were investigating the incident, and she couldn’t comment further.
Wills’ nephew Thomas Jones said his uncle spent 33 years in the construction industry as an ironworker, and “lived and breathed” his work.
He said Wills had a son and daughter, both in their 20’s, and another son who is deceased.
Wills loved basketball, rode motorcycles and used to drive race cars, Jones said.
He was very well-liked, and the family is expecting up to 600 people at the funeral. A date had not been set as of Friday.
“If you’d ever met him, you’d have loved him,” Jones said.
Rescue workers, along with engineers, worked for four hours to stabilize the structure before rescuing the trapped man. The collapse was between the second and third levels.
Montgomery Fire and Rescue Service responded to the report of a partial collapse of a parking garage near the Macy’s entrance of the mall at about 1:52 p.m. on Thursday.
“Urban search and rescue described an extended extrication and technical rescue,” Nesselt said.
Bany Alavi of Germantown said she stopped at the mall to get lunch and was coming back to her car when she heard a very loud crash, which she described as sounding like two pieces of metal slamming together.
Alavi said she was initially concerned the noise might have been a bomb, but she knew there was construction in the garage and assumed the noise was related to that work.
Both victims had initially been able to communicate with rescue personnel, Graham said. Wills died under the wreckage. The second man was rescued and taken by a waiting Maryland State Police MedEvac helicopter to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Police asked customers to avoid the area and Westlake Drive was closed at Democracy Boulevard and mall entrances were closed to vehicle traffic Thursday, according to police. Only the entrance to the mall near the movie theaters remained closed Friday.
Westfield Montgomery emailed The Gazette the following statement about the accident:
“As has been reported, earlier today a construction related accident occurred at Westfield Montgomery. The accident occurred in a parking deck that was closed for redevelopment. Unfortunately, the accident resulted in serious injuries to what is believed to be two victims, including one fatality. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the victims and their families.”
A woman who answered the phone for Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. office in Baltimore, the construction firm working on the mall project, said she was “not allowed to speak to the press” and could not provide anyone who was permitted to do so.
Under construction was the first phase of the Westfield revitalization project. A 16-screen, 60,000-square-foot ArcLight Cinema has a projected spring 2014 opening, according to the mall’s Facebook page. It is being constructed above the parking garage located on the west side of the property, adjacent to the existing food court.