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Finding cause of Tampa airport garage collapse to take weeks

An investigation to determine why a huge slab of a concrete ceiling collapsed inside a Tampa International parking garage will take weeks to complete.

Bolts holding the slab in place pulled out from garage support columns, said Louis Russo, the airport's senior director of planning and development. But identifying why the bolts failed and who was at fault will take engineers "a few weeks,'' he said.

The 50-by-150-foot chunk of ceiling crashed down before 2 a.m. Monday on the ground level of the long-term parking garage, an area closed to the public where car rental companies clean, fuel and park vehicles. An empty car was crushed by the slab and two others were damaged. No one was injured.

The ceiling that partially collapsed is called a ''roof canopy,'' retrofitted into the garage in 2002. Because the garage was built in two sections with a gap open to the sky, rental car employees got wet when it rained. The canopy built by Creative Contractors of Clearwater kept them dry.

Creative Contractors sent representatives to the airport Monday to assist in the investigation. But the builder is only there to provide information requested by airport officials, said Tom Fronce, senior vice president of marketing.

"This is the first time in 34 years of business that anything has happened like this,'' he said.

An engineer from Walker Parking, which built the original garage, will be joined in the investigation by an independent engineer, Russo said. Meanwhile, crews were working Tuesday to shore up the remaining canopy.

Russo hoped to get the concrete slab removed before Friday, so rental car companies could use the area when business picks up for Super Bowl.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Finding cause of Tampa airport garage collapse to take weeks 01/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3:31pm]
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