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Section of Tampa airport parking garage collapses

TAMPA — A massive chunk of concrete canopy collapsed inside a Tampa International Airport parking garage early this morning, crushing an empty rental car and damaging two others.

The 50-foot-by-150-foot slab came crashing down before 2 a.m. on the ground floor of the long-term garage, where rental car companies wash and refuel vehicles.

Engineers who inspected the remaining canopy and surrounding supports found the 18-year-old garage was safe to keep open, airport officials said.

"It didn't impact the structural integrity of the garage or interfere with our (parking) operations,'' said Louis Milller, the airport's executive director.

The collapse happened at a lucky time. Only one Hertz employee was in the area and wasn't hurt. Hertz moved car-return operations to a site near the airport post office today, Miller said, but expects to be back in the garage later this week as rentals pick up closer to Sunday's Super Bowl.

The canopy was installed in 2002 by Design Creative Contractors as part of garage renovation to move rental car service counters out of the main terminal. Parts of the garage are open to the weather, and the canopy protected workers from the rain, said Louis Russo, an airport senior director.

About one-third of the canopy collapsed, he said. The structure is held up by garage support columns and made of sections connected by steel bolts. Engineers had not determined Monday what caused the collapse, Russo said.

Workers checked the canopy in the last year as part of regularly scheduled structural inspections of the garages.

This marked the second garage construction mishap since last fall. In October, builders found that a concrete column in a section of the remote economy garage under construction sank 3 inches.

An underground pylon supporting the column had slipped. Officials blamed fissures in lime rock 125 feet underground that held the pylon in place. Repairs to shore up the column and a fix cracked support beam will cost $2-million.

Steve Huettel can be reached at (813) 226-3384.

Section of Tampa airport parking garage collapses 01/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:17pm]
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