University Village walkway had 'severe rusting,' investigation says

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 8:34 p.m. CST; updated 11:46 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 27, 2014

COLUMBIA — The walkway at University Village apartments that collapsed Saturday, resulting in the death of Columbia Fire Department Lt. Bruce Britt, showed signs of "severe rusting" and deterioration, according to the partial death investigation from the MU Police Department.

MU Police Department Detective Sam Easley, who investigated the scene after the incident, documented what he described as a walkway "in a deteriorated state," according to the report, which was posted by the Columbia Daily Tribune on Wednesday afternoon. The Tribune received the report as the result of a records request.

Easley wrote that he observed "severe rusting on the metal, underneath the existing walkway, where the collapsed portion of walkway separated and exposed a portion of the remaining concrete."

"The concrete of the remaining walkway looked to be flaking and distressed," Easley said.

In the report, Easley said MU Police Officer Dustin Heckmaster overheard engineers say the walkway was "severely deteriorated over time due to age, elements and salt."

Ghazwan Alwan, a resident at University Village, called 911 after he heard a loud noise he thought was coming from the roof. Before the collapse, Alwan noticed a "significant dip" in the walkway floor and an unknown object hanging from the walkway.

MU Police Sgt. Alan Fish was walking behind Britt when he heard a "loud bang" and "observed the concrete walkway collapsing towards (him) and brick being pulled off the front of the building," according to the report.

After the collapse, Fish "reached the area where Britt had fallen and discovered he was trapped under the walkway," according to the report.

Britt was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead Saturday morning. Britt is the first Columbia firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since 1986.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said he thinks there were 18 people in the 12-unit building at the time of the walkway collapse, according to previous Missourian reporting. No residents were injured during the collapse.

The official cause of the incident was still under investigation Wednesday night.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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Chris Cady February 27, 2014 | 4:08 p.m.

Thanks for the details, I was hoping we'd get some technical explanation of what happened, and this is faster than I expected.

What is a 'partial death investigation'?

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