A condominium under construction in this southern Martin County community collapsed Thursday evening, killing one worker, leaving a second one missing and feared dead and five more seriously injured, authorities said.
At least 13 men were pouring and smoothing concrete to erect the building's third floor when the structure at Flora Avenue and Bridge Road in Martin County gave way about 6:15 p.m., witnesses said.
It just collapsed," said a concrete foreman who was on the roof at the time. "I just kind of slid off the slope on the ground."
Nicholas Mastroianni, the president of developer Allied Capital and Development LLC of Palm Beach Gardens, said workers were pouring concrete on the third floor of a three-story condo when there was a partial collapse of a second-floor slab floor.
The subcontractor, Macs Construction & Concrete of Boca Raton, had been pouring concrete for the past two weeks, he said. The victims were Macs employees.
Emergency crews from Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties arrived as workers emerged from the tangled mass of twisted metal and concrete.
"The main problem when the first crew got here was the unstable structure," Martin County EMS bureau chief Joey Ferrara said. "It was a lot of chaos when we got here."
He said construction workers were trying to pull colleagues out of the rubble. One victim was trapped under the concrete from the waist down.
" [He] actually pulled himself out of the concrete," Ferrara said. "We handed the backboard to him and pulled him out."
As rescuers pulled victims out, construction workers used a large crane to clear the debris.
By nightfall, three workers had been airlifted to St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
Two were taken by ambulance to local hospitals and several were treated at the scene.
The 82-unit condominium complex aroused opposition from area residents, who argued the three-story buildings would form a quarter-mile wall that would ruin the small-town character of the neighborhood. But county commissioners approved it by a 3-2 vote.
The $31 million community had been expected to be completed late this year or early next.
The cause of the collapse was unknown late Thursday. Martin County Fire-Rescue and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.
"We are not working it as suspicious. We are working it as accidental," Martin County sheriff's spokeswoman Jenell Atlas said.
Speaking from New York City, where he was attending a family gathering, Mastroianni expressed his concern about the tragedy.
"I'm devastated by this," said Mastroianni, who planned to be at the construction site today. "We have no idea what may have caused it. We have people trying to assess what's going on. I express my condolences to the families. I just want to get to the bottom of this."
Judith Meccariello, a contractor with Macs Construction, declined to comment on Thursday night.
At 7:10 p.m., rescuers emerged from the wreckage with one person on a stretcher. Minutes later, rescue workers brought another victim out.
Three more victims followed over the next 30 minutes.
Fire-rescue and construction crews worked into the night to free the worker killed in the collapse and find the missing worker, who was presumed to be near the dead man. Two large cranes were removing debris overnight.
Covered in concrete but otherwise uninjured, the concrete foreman watched rescuers search for his two co-workers -- and gave thanks for his escape.
"I was blessed," he said.