City Launches Investigation After Restaurant Roof Collapses - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


City Launches Investigation After Restaurant Roof Collapses

The City of Lubbock is now heading an investigation to determine what caused the roof to cave in at the Little Panda restaurant at 9th and Slide. It happened during lunch time on Monday while several customers were inside. Twenty-three year-old Tara Wilson died and ten others were injured. We're told all that were taken local hospitals have been treated and released.

Meanwhile, NewsChannel 11 has been researching the building's history. We've learned it was constructed in 1977 and was originally a Taco Bell. Little Panda began leasing the building in 2003. A handful of old "Taco Bell" buildings just like it, are still occupied in Lubbock. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire tells us how the city plans to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Texas Tech Graduate Killed in Roof Collapse
NewsChannel 11 is learning more about the woman who died in the roof collapse at Little Panda Monday.

First thing Tuesday morning the city codes and inspections department started researching how many old Taco Bell building styles are currently in Lubbock, we're told there could be around half a dozen. Next, they'll start looking into what caused the building's roof to fall and if the same thing could happen to the other buildings.

Only piles of rubble are left of the Little Panda restaurant 24 hours after the roof collapsed. Investigators say high winds likely played a role in what happened. When an accident of that nature occurs it brings forth many thoughts for the city's codes and inspections team.

"You feel for those that were trapped inside and their families," said Assistant Building Official Aubrey Long. "Our hearts go out to them. Second, as the building department we're concerned about the structural elements of it."

Long says the department is finding out how many similar building types are in Lubbock. He says right now there's no evidence proving the same scene could be repeated at other similar buildings, however the city will investigate.

"I don't have any need to spread fear to anyone," said Long, "we will be looking at these facilities in the near future to determine if there is any structural faults within the facilities."

Roof Collapse Victims Could Seek Legal Action
NewsChannel 11 is learning more about the woman who died in the roof collapse. 23-year-old Tara Wilson graduated from Texas Tech last August with a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences. But because she died in this incident, one lawyer feels this case falls under negligence, and the family could file a lawsuit. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel has this report.

NewsChannel 11 has learned the city fully inspected the building in 1977 when it was built. They visited it again in 1981 when a drive through was added, and again in 2003 when Little Panda took over and made minor renovations.

Codes fully inspects buildings when they're being constructed. If any re-modeling or renovations are done the codes department only inspects the improvements. Long says the renovations made in 2003 would not have affected the roof, so the codes department is also asking how the accident happened.

"It is a hard thing to look at and of course it's still to be determined what caused it. We don't know for sure exactly how it may have happened," said Long.

The codes department tells us they're searching their records to see if any structural problems have been reported. Technically, after the city approves construction plans either the owner or the building's occupant is responsible for the structural safety. However, if the codes department is made aware of major problems they will investigate. The department says they were never made aware of any problems at the Little Panda location.

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