Austin apartment complex evacuated following near collapse


by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News and Photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 11:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 10 at 7:52 AM

AUSTIN -- A three-story building at Las Palmas Apartments spent Tuesday night empty following a potential collapse and evacuation. The 50 people who live inside are now left wondering if they'll need a new home.

Tuesday evening turned into a waiting game at Las Palmas. Families peeked past crime scene tape at the home they may not have much longer.

Jose Reyes walked outside to see something he had feared for weeks.

"Like the whole this side of the apartment is falling over, like about to fall," said Reyes. "Everything is just cracked on this side. Any moment it could have fallen, we didn't know when."
The end result was a balcony, not collapsed, but close enough to evacuate building one.

"What it appears to be is we had an acute event with a structural shift and that cracking appeared," said AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck. 

Firefighters arrived to clear the scene but it was police who showed up first on a disturbance call. The problem was an argument between management, and a resident claiming he woke up when his bedroom shifted and cracks appeared in the walls.

For Reyes, it was the latest problem of several.

"Sometimes we don't have hot water," said Reyes. "We give them complaints to come fix, but they don't come, they tell us they'll come. They never come."
Code compliance officers worked with AFD and found multiple rooms damaged. By nightfall, the crime scene tape surrounding the building wasn't coming down leaving Reyes and other residents in search of a place to stay.
"We don't even know where we're going to stay tonight," said Reyes. "We don't have anybody here."
Fortunately apartment management worked to ensure all 16 families who live in building one did have a place to stay, putting them up in a local motel courtesy of Las Palmas management.

Wednesday morning, engineers will start inspecting each building for structure flaws.