MU orders inspection of all facilities in wake of balcony collapse

Saturday, February 22, 2014 | 7:19 p.m. CST; updated 6:28 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 23, 2014
MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin speaks at a news conference held after Lt. Bruce Britt, of the Columbia Fire Department, was fatally injured in a fall from a second-story walkway early Saturday morning at University Village apartments. "We immediately brought in a structure engineering firm to examine the affected facility first and next all those like it in University Village," Loftin said. "With advice from the firm we've done appropriate actions to guarantee that the other buildings in that facility (University Village) are in fact safe."

COLUMBIA – MU has hired an engineering firm to inspect all facilities owned and leased by the university after a balcony collapsed at MU-run University Village apartments Saturday morning.

The firm inspected all other MU Residential Life buildings, along with the rest of the apartments at University Village, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said at a news conference for a firefighter killed in the collapse.

Vertical supports were installed beneath other University Village walkways on Saturday to give them additional support, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

Inspections of all other facilities owned or leased by MU will begin Monday, Loftin said.

"We are very concerned about the ongoing safety of all the Mizzou family, especially our students," he said.

Shortly after 4 a.m., part of a second-story balcony collapsed at University Village apartments building 707. Lt. Bruce Britt of the Columbia Fire Department became entrapped while responding and died from his injuries at University Hospital.

MU hired an engineering firm to perform the inspections, Basi said.

"We do have experts on our campus, but we routinely rely on external experts for additional review and inspection from time to time," he said. 

Built in 1956 and virtually unchanged since, the two-story brick apartments were designed to house graduate students and students with families.

MU Residential Life had been considering renovating or rebuilding University Village since 2008, according to previous Missourian reporting.

In 2012, Residential Life Director Frankie Minor told the Missourian he had spoken to private developers about the possibility of rebuilding University Village and University Heights, another university-run apartment complex, but that it'd been a struggle to find a financially feasible model for doing so.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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Ellis Smith February 23, 2014 | 12:19 p.m.

It's customary to inspect buildings routinely so that we PREVENT what happened to this one. "After the fact" is a bit late, especially when there's been a loss of life.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 23, 2014 | 3:35 p.m.

Personally, I thought those apartments were a dump in 1971 when I first got here.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 24, 2014 | 8:37 a.m.

Are the university president and/or curators ALSO going to have buildings at UMKC, UMSL and MS&T inspected, or don't they care about students and others at those campuses? Keep in mind that the combined student populationn at those three campuses is greater than the student population at MU.

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