Las Vegas Sun

March 20, 2019

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Construction collapse called unusual for area

A safety director for a local general contractor said the type of collapse that happened Monday at one of Turnberry Associate's Las Vegas projects is unusual for the area.

"I've never heard of that happening in Las Vegas," said Lisa Kane, Western region safety director for Pirini Building Co. Inc., one of the valley's largest commercial general contractors.

Seven construction workers were injured Monday morning, one seriously, in the partial collapse of the under-construction Turnberry Towers at the northeast corner of Paradise Road and Karen Avenue.

The collapse happened at the first of two planned 45-story towers, southeast of the four-tower Turnberry Place. Turnberry Towers was originally called Madison Towers and had been slated to have four shorter towers, but Turnberry announced new plans for the project last fall.

Two sections of the second story collapsed onto the first about 9 a.m. Monday.

Ted Droessler, manager of engineering for Clark County Development Service' building division, said the project's aluminum shoring, or temporary supports holding up the second floor, gave way while crews were pouring concrete.

The collapsed area, between two permanent concrete walls, measured about 63 feet long and 35 feet wide. The part that collapsed was the area held up by the shoring, Droessler said.

He said the contractor is responsible for maintaining the safety of temporary supports, and that county inspectors inspect only permanent structures.

"Our department doesn't review the shoring plan," Droessler said.

The general contractor of record is Turnberry Place Construction, according to county records.

Bob Ambridge, director of development for Turnberry Associates, relayed an e-mailed statement through company spokeswoman Stacy Gold saying that safety is the company's No. 1 priority.

"Our top priority is the well-being of the people who were injured today," he said. "As this morning's accident is currently under investigation, we cannot comment further until we have more information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as to its cause."

Tom Czehowski, chief administrative officer for Nevada OSHA, confirmed that investigators were at the site Monday, but said he could not comment on an open investigation.

A construction worker from a nearby site said that from his perspective, not enough support was put under the second floor before the concrete pour.

Kane said the problem could have come from defective equipment or the shoring could have simply been installed incorrectly.

Construction accidents such as the one at Turnberry raise red flags at construction sites throughout Southern Nevada, prompting supervisors to be extra diligent about their own work, Kane said.

Without an official explanation of what caused the collapse, experts speculated on the types of problems that can cause construction accidents.

With the area's building boom, the challenge to find skilled workers has become a problem for many construction companies.

Kane said many of the people Perini brings onto a job site are retrained through the company's own safety program.

"We've trained the ever-living crud out of them," she said.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America, said while he is not commenting on the cause of the Turnberry accident, there always are situations in which a builder, faced with unexpected costs, tries to cut corners.

"There can also be accidents that can happen where everything was by the book," he said. "You can't make a connection between the two (construction costs and accidents)."

In fact, Simonson said, he has not seen a greater frequency on construction accidents or failures since construction material costs started to increase in 2003.

But Mark Baker, principal of IBA Consultants, which specializes in project consultation for high-rise buildings, said in general, in a construction boom the first thing that often suffers is the quality of the workmanship; all the more reason supervision and training is so important. Baker is a planning consultant for Turnberry on its Las Vegas projects.

"It's not intentional -- the best contractors are constantly having staff robbed from them," he said. "It's hard to keep good people. Mistakes happen -- that's normal in a boom."

Sun reporter J. Craig Anderson contributed to this report.

Jennifer Shubinski can be reached at 259-8832 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Nick Christensen can be reached at 259-4085 or [email protected]