MU Department of Residential Life meets with University Village residents after walkway collapse

Sunday, February 23, 2014 | 7:52 p.m. CST; updated 9:10 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 23, 2014
The MU Department of Residential Life hosted a meeting for University Village apartment residents Sunday, after a walkway collapsed there Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Members of MU's Department of Residential Life and building engineers addressed residents of the MU-run University Village apartments, following Saturday's deadly walkway collapse.

Frankie Minor, Department of Residential Life director, said the university is still waiting on answers as to what caused the collapse and fielded a bevy of questions from concerned residents.

"We don't have all the information," Minor said. "We want to make sure we're doing a thorough analysis of what happened, but we're relying upon the experts to critically analyze this, to come up with the most accurate representation of what happened."

Residents living in the affected building have been evacuated, but they were able to retrieve essential items from their apartments Saturday night and Sunday morning. Minor said they have temporarily been placed at other campus facilities or in hotels.

Wooden structures have been placed beneath walkways on all buildings in the complex as a temporary preventive measure. The structures were recommended by engineers to guarantee safety and could remain in place for the next six to eight months.

"We're waiting on their analysis and their report to determine what corrective measures might need to be taken," Minor said. "Our bottom line concern is safety and security."

Early Saturday morning, part of a second-story balcony of building 707 at the University Village apartment complex collapsed. Columbia firefighter Lt. Bruce Britt was trapped while responding and later was pronounced dead at University Hospital. No residents were injured.

MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin ordered inspections of all other MU-owned or leased facilities. These inspections will begin Monday, he said.

Built in 1956 and virtually unchanged since, the two-story brick University Village apartments were designed to house graduate students and students with families. The MU Department of Residential Life has been considering renovating or rebuilding University Village since 2008.

Residents at the meeting Sunday expressed concern over the safety of their homes, and many questioned Minor about when a timeline of further action would be determined. Some wondered about the future of University Village given its old age.

"My guess is by the end of the semester, you'll know what the future of this place is," MU Vice Chancellor Cathy Scroggs said at the meeting.

Other residents were undecided if they would continue to live at the apartment complex.

Betsabé Castro Escobar and her fiancé Victor De Jesús Reyes were among the residents living in the collapsed building, and are unsure whether they will remain at University Village. 

"I have the same feeling as every resident here," Escobar said. "I believe this could be avoided and something that could be worked on previously before tragedy happened."

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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