Thursday, February 23, 2012

1 still critical after hangar collapse at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport (KPUJ), Atlanta, Georgia

As federal investigators surveyed the scene, one man remained in critical condition Thursday after a hangar collapsed at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.

The contractor worker, whose name was not released, was one of two people injured when the hangar, still under construction, fell Wednesday afternoon, according to the Paulding County Fire Department. The two men, both contractors from outside of Paulding County, were on top of the hangar when it collapsed, Blake Swafford, the airport director, told the AJC on Thursday afternoon.

One man, Swafford said, was able to hold on to part of the building as he fell. But the other, the man who remains in critical condition, fell to the ground, Swafford said.

The man with minor injuries was treated at WellStar Paulding Hospital and released, MaryAnn Phipps, spokeswoman for the fire department, told the AJC. The other remained in critical condition at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Phipps said.

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the airport Thursday trying to determine what may have caused the collapse, a spokeswoman for the airport said. Wind may have been a factor in the collapse, Swafford said.

Swafford said the hangar construction likely will be delayed about a month and, hopefully, will be completed this summer. It's the second major delay for the project, which was previously delayed because the concrete slab was not level, Swafford said. The slab wasn't believed to have caused the collapse, he said.

When it opened in 2008, the Paulding airport was the first jet-ready airport to open in Georgia in more than 30 years. It is located about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, near Dallas.

In October, the Salute America 2012 Air Show is planned at the airport.

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. —  Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration returned to a hangar at the Paulding County Airport on Thursday looking for clues as to what caused the construction project to collapse, injuring two workers.

"In this particular case, you had a wall that collapsed," said OSHA Regional Administrator Benjamin Ross. "So you want to see whether the root cause was a failure to install some safety device to ensure that the walls would be erected."

Channel 2’s Richard Elliot uncovered problems with the construction project last December when airport officials found workers had not properly poured the concrete slab for the hangar. The project was delayed until a new subcontractor could be hired, but officials don't believe that had anything to do with the collapse.

"It didn't quite meet the specifications, so we're going to have to do some grinding on the slab to in order to level it out," said Airport Manager Blake Swafford. "We think it had absolutely nothing to do with the strength of the slab or the usability of the slab. We certainly don't think it had anything to do with the issue we had with the steel."

Swafford believes gusty wind conditions had something to do with the collapse. He said the construction had reached a "vulnerable" stage and may have been more susceptible to the wind.

"The winds up here can be vicious," said airport neighbor Patti Smith.

Smith is part of a group of neighbors long opposed to the airport. She thinks it never should have been built in the first place, in part because of the wind.

"I've seen some wind, but here it is more unpredictable," said Smith.

OSHA said the investigation into what went wrong could take anywhere from 10 days to several months.

Authorities still are not releasing the names of the two injured men, but did say one was released from the hospital. They said the second man remains in critical condition at Kennestone Hospital.

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