PARMA, Ohio (WJW) — What caused a section of a parking lot to collapse into an underground garage at an apartment complex in Parma late Tuesday night?
A team of investigators with the city of Parma is now trying to answer that troubling question. It happened at 11:45 p.m. at the Regency Apartments in the 5800 block of Laurent Drive.
Nicholas Schultz lives in the complex and says he heard a crumbling noise in the parking lot and decided to go outside and investigate. He saw that a car had just pulled in and parked next to his car, but he could not believe what he witnessed next.
“Within a minute or so, I saw the garage collapse and both vehicles were then suspended from the parking lot,” he said.
Shultz told FOX 8 the only thing keeping his car and the other vehicle from falling into the underground garage below, was the fact that the front and back bumpers were sitting on top of the garage’s steel ceiling girders.
Fortunately, no one was in harm’s way when the parking deck collapsed, and no injuries were reported.
“That was my first thought, was to make sure no one was downstairs, I was listening for any screaming or anything like that, made sure that the people that just got out of their vehicle were OK as well,” Schultz said.
The Parma Fire Department is now investigating what caused the supports holding up the parking lot to fail, which is eerily similar to the collapse of the parking garage at the Marine Towers West apartment complex in Lakewood in December 2021.
“Each part of the parking structure has a cement deck in between it and then it’s held up by metal girders, there were some failure in there. It could be a force of the weight of the vehicles themselves, the weight of the deck itself and then the age always plays a factor in everything,” said Parma Fire Spokesman TJ Martin.
Fire officials say the foundation of the parking garage and the foundation of the apartment building are separate and they maintain the apartment complex itself is structurally sound. What is interesting about the parking deck on top of the underground parking garage is that, at one point, the operators of the complex decided to permanently close off a large section of the deck.
“Engineering models back in the day when these buildings were built were not as refined as they are now, and I believe at one point they determined that it wouldn’t hold the weight that it was designed to hold, and out of an abundance of caution, the management company said ‘we’re not going to park there anymore,'” said Martin.
Residents say there have been a number of issues with the parking garage over the years and they have lodged formal complaints with the management company that owns the complex.
One tenant, who asked that he not be identified, told FOX 8, “water has been leaking through that ceiling for a while now, and there’s also cracks throughout the flooring, throughout the walls and part of the floor is raised up.”
The resident says the collapse of the parking deck was an accident waiting to happen.
“I mean you can’t walk into the garage without knowing something is wrong, you see puddles on the floor caused by the water dripping through, like I said you see that building, on the ceiling, people’s cars are covered in lime stone from deposits because of it, there’s no way they didn’t know,” he said.
Investigators are checking the inspection history of the building, operated by Owner’s Management Company, based in Bedford Heights. The company has not responded to our request for an interview or statement.
“This is something that you would never think would happen, so they’re not inspected on a regular basis, the management companies themselves do that. And with the failure of a component, it’s not necessarily something that’s going to be noticed at any one point in time,” said TJ Martin.
Authorities are now making arrangements to remove the two cars that are suspended by their bumpers over the large hole in the parking deck, so that they can do a more thorough assessment of the damage and identify the exact cause of the collapse.