Deadly Restaurant Roof Collapse Triggers Nationwide Inquiry - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/30/06

Deadly Restaurant Roof Collapse Triggers Nationwide Inquiry

The investigation into a Lubbock restaurant roof collapse could turn into a nationwide inspection. Investigators believe they now know what most likely caused the Little Panda roof to collapse last week. They say the wind could have prompted the collapse but say the design of the building could also be to blame.

The cave-in killed 23-year-old Tara Wilson and injured ten other people. Old photos the restaurant on 9th and Slide before the collapse. It was housed in a building that used to be a Taco Bell. On Thursday, investigators told NewsChannel 11 the old-style Taco Bell buildings could be dangerous. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel explains.

There are three old Taco Bell buildings left standing in Lubbock. RTR Engineers and the City of Lubbock began an investigation on Josie's on 50th and Q, but so far, they say the building is safe. But two others in Lubbock have the same problems that were found in the Little Panda incident.

"We estimate 3,000 pounds came tumbling down on the roof below." The Little Panda remains a pile of rubble after the roof collapsed. Investigators are now asking if it an accident or could it happen again? Steve O'Neal, a Lubbock Building Inspector says, "If this building were built to modern standards, it doesn't feel like this would've happened."

The Little Panda did not have any code or building violations, but investigators say 30 years ago, the standards were much different. If you combine 3,000 pounds of cement brick, a 30-year-old roof and strong winds like we saw the day the building collapsed, history shows it could be a deadly combination. "Essentially, the heavy parapet that was sitting on top, was not anchored in place and we're seeing some cracking in other places where we're seeing concern there as well."

The city says there are still three buildings left standing in Lubbock, and many more across the country. "We've come to the point where this could be a design issue," which means this could be the beginning of something much bigger. "The jury is still out. We still need to look deeper."

The city has sent an alert to the International Code Council which could lead to the inspection of old Taco Bell buildings nationwide. Again, inspectors tell us the Josie's location is safe. Another prototype building has been sold and is supposed to be torn down. We'll continue to follow this story and bring you more information as it becomes available.

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