Collapse Of Part Of West Virginia Hospital Garage Under Investigation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Engineers are trying to determine what caused part of a hospital parking garage to collapse, sending debris into a mental health service's waiting room on the first floor.

A 30-foot section of the sixth floor of the garage at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital collapsed Friday evening. Four cars on the fifth floor were damaged and the impact knocked a hole in the ceiling of the fourth floor.

Part of a retaining wall and metal railing outside the garage gave way and crashed into a waiting room at Prestera Mental Health Services on the first floor.

No injuries were reported.

Dale Witte, a CAMC spokesman, said the cause of the collapse is not known.

``The engineers are taking all extra precautions and being extra conservative on their estimates,'' Witte said. ``They're going above and beyond what's needed to stabilize (the garage) and make it safe.''

City fire officials barred access to the garage after the accident, stranding about 200 cars inside. Emergency workers moved most of the vehicles out late Saturday night but 27 remained inside the structure Sunday.

Witte said hospital officials are trying to locate the cars' owners.

The garage was not expected to reopen for at least a week, hospital officials said.

``It'll be an inconvenience for people with cars in there. But at least no one was hurt. We're not going to let anybody in until the building is stable,'' said Charleston Fire Department Chief Grant Gunnoe.

About $2 million in renovations were recently completed to reinforce the garage, which was built in 1980, said Karen Siem, head of facilities development at CAMC.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette