Residents return home after Lakewood parking garage collapse, but investigation is just beginning

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LAKEWOOD (WJW) – Residents displaced by the collapse of an underground garage attached to their Lakewood high-rise have been allowed back into their apartments as investigators looked into the cause.

Residents of Marine Towers West Apartments began reentering their apartments Friday afternoon after city officials said a structural engineer and city officials inspected the building and deemed it safe.

Search crews worked until 2 a.m. to remove debris and more than a dozen crushed vehicles from the two-level underground garage that suddenly collapsed Thursday morning.

After the collapse, firefighters evacuated residents. Many reported hearing a boom and feeling the building shake when the collapse occurred.

“I was literally just taking a shower and I heard a loud boom,” resident Mari Gonzalez said.

Lakewood Mayor Meghan George said search crews removing debris confirmed no one was in the area or injured when the garage caved in just before 10 a.m.

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“It’s a Christmas miracle,” she said. “The time of day this happened, if it was a few hours earlier or later in the day, we very likely would’ve had people in the garage either going to work or coming home.”

George said the city confirmed a construction crew was working at the property the morning of the collapse, but no building permits had been pulled for the work.

“The fact that no permits were pulled and there was a construction crew there is very concerning,” George said.

She said city officials had already begun a cursory review of the building’s history and past inspection reports.

“From what we’ve seen at this point, it seems to be a building that’s maintained its structures, but we’re still investigating further,” George said.

George said the city would conduct a thorough investigation into the building and the cause of the collapse.

Residents said they saw work taking place in the garage in the days leading up to the collapse.

“They were stripping the rebar that basically holds up the beams underneath the garage,” Gonzalez said.

Several residents spent Thursday night in a hotel and anxiously awaited any update from property manager Burton Carol Management.

“Communication would help because we’re anxious, we’re worried,” Gonzalez said. “Our life is in here.”

Building management sent an email to residents Friday stating two engineers and its insurance company had determined the building was safe for occupancy and “the issue in the garage did not affect the 18-story tower.”

Residents were grateful no one was injured. The collapse happened near the garage entrance, where dumpsters are kept and where cars often enter and exit.

“It feels surreal,” resident Fatemeh Pishdavian said. “I can’t help thinking that someone could have been there.”

Residents were still awaiting information about the removal of vehicles that were not damaged but remained trapped in the garage.

George said the city and building management were working on plans to remove those vehicles.

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