5 people unaccounted for in partially collapsed Iowa apartment complex; 2 believed to still be in building

Five people were unaccounted for after a historic Iowa apartment building partly collapsed, and officials said Tuesday that two of them are thought to be inside the building.

Nine people have been rescued since the catastrophic structural failure of the 116-year-old, six-story complex in Davenport about 5 p.m. Sunday.

City officials said at a news conference Tuesday that they plan to search the complex again. In the afternoon, a team searched part of the building “that presented as acceptable risk” for entry and rescued animals but found no people.

“Crews continued to search for human activity and none was detected,” the city said on Facebook late Tuesday afternoon.

The decision to search was an about-face a day after Davenport officials said they would demolish the structure Tuesday morning after K-9 units found no survivors inside.

Hours after the announcement Monday, Lisa Brooks, 52, was rescued from her fourth-story apartment.

Davenport Fire Marshal James Morris said the rescue was a “viable indication” that the city needed to look again for more survivors.

Protesters had decried the demolition plans. Some carried signs that said “Davenport Deserves Better” and “Find Them First” as people chanted “Search and rescue!”

Branden Colvin Jr., 18, whose father Branden Colvin is missing, said Tuesday that he’s frustrated.

“It’s been a new story every hour,” he said, adding, “I just want to know where my dad’s at.”

Davenport Police Chief Jeffery Bladel said Tuesday that five people were unaccounted for and that “we have a firm belief” that two of them were “still potentially in that building.”

Police continue to secure a six-story apartment building on May 29, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa, after it collapsed the day before.
Police continued to secure a six-story apartment building Monday in Davenport, Iowa, after it collapsed Sunday.Scott Olson / Getty Images

One of those still believed to be inside is Ryan Hitchcock. Amy Anderson, his cousin, said at the news conference that she supported the demolition plans.

“Ryan wouldn’t want anyone else to put their lives at risk,” she said. “I don’t discount that he could be trapped down there. … We don’t want to see any more families lose their lives or anybody else be injured in trying to remove that rubble.”

She said she spoke with city officials Monday night and was promised that crews would search through the rubble to uncover any possible remains. 

Morris said that the city’s goal is to search for additional occupants in the structure but that the building’s integrity had only worsened since the collapse and that it “shifted” when crews were onsite.

“We are partnering with other entities, as well as our department, to respectfully remove any possible human remains with dignity,” he said. 

The demolition plans are “under evaluation” and essentially on hold. Officials haven’t shared a timeline for when another search or demolition will take place.

The cause of the collapse remains under investigation. Morris said that investigators are consulting with state agencies about who will take the lead in the investigation and that it hasn’t been determined whether a criminal offense has occurred. 

Officials also shed more light Tuesday on the property owner, identified as Andrew Wold, and past work at the site.

Mayor Mike Matson said Wold was at the location Sunday and has been in contact with the city. Wold hasn’t replied to multiple requests for comment.

Morris said that there were initial issues with the building and that a structural engineer’s report that was provided to the city determined it was safe.

The report was completed by the engineering firm Select Structural Engineering, based in Bettendorf, Rick Oswald, the director of Davenport’s Development & Neighborhood Services, said Tuesday. 

He said two engineering reports were submitted within six months: at the end of January and last week. 

Both reports were in response to bricks’ falling off the building of 324 Main St., and both times the engineering firm reported to the city that the building was structurally sound and outlined repairs. 

Davenport’s government said Tuesday afternoon: “The stability of the building continues to degrade.

“The recovery of any unaccounted for individuals remains the priority of the City as operational planning progresses,” it said in a statement.

Shaquille Brewster and Phil Helsel contributed.

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