2 remain hospitalized after Lakeview water tank falls to street

July 31, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The 100-year-old wooden water tank fell off the Brewster Building and on to a parking lot area around 10 a.m. on July 31, which was the deadline for some residents in an adjacent building to move out. The three people were taken to the hospital- two in serious and one in critical condition.

On Wednesday night, two people remain in the hospital, including a 27-year-old woman who is in critical condition, but is expected to survive.

One of the victims, Bertha O'Campo, is back home Wednesday night. A young woman and her boyfriend were also hurt as they were getting into a car.

The ABC 7 I-Team learned a citation was issued after the tank failed an inspection 3 ½ years ago. The city ordered a structural engineering report, and a few months later, the building passed a follow-up inspection.

On Wednesday night, the building management told ABC-7 they are working with the city and inspectors.

"I heard this noise, and I full on thought it was a bomb… It was a really loud noise. Then I saw water come through, saw my friends run over there, and her boyfriend shouted someone call 911. I saw the girl. I thought she was dead," Gareth Carragher, neighbor, said.

"The tank came off the building. Fairly loud crashing sound, you probably heard about a dozen voices calling for 911," Michael Riley, building resident, said.

"When the first companies got here, we found out we had three people that were hurt. Seems two people were getting in a car as it fell, and got hurt. Another person was coming out of an adjoining building and got hit with some debris," Fire Chief Mike Fox said.

Officials said the injuries were caused by flying debris, not the rushing water nor a direct hit by the tank.

"First when I came down she wasn't moving. And her eyes were, there was nothing, there was no movement in the eyes. She was just lying there. A few more minutes, she started moving. And hopefully she'll be alright," Carragher said.

Officials from the Chicago buildings department are on the scene investigating.

"At this point it's still under investigation [as to] why it fell. There was nobody working on it at the time," Fox said.

The Brewster Building is an historic landmark built in 1893 and was once home to actor Charlie Chaplin, who lived in the penthouse unit, located directly under the water tank, during the early 20th Century.

Residents say they have not had any problems with the tank before it fell.

"Beautifully maintained," Jim Kay, resident, said of the building. "Engineering on site is top notch. The association is on top of everything, and they're very, very responsible and knowledgeable about a vintage property."

First Community Management, which manages the building, declined to comment.

The water tank, which was full of thousands of gallons of water, provided water- in some capacity- to the condo building. Inspectors are now examining the tank's metal mounting bracket.

"It's the last residential building that has the iron skeleton frame and the true heavy masonry, and they don't make them like this anymore," Kay said.

There are more than 150 water towers like this one within Chicago, and the city says they are inspected every five years.

Contractors say the water tower was still in use. They say water is flowing Wednesday night, and will be back in the morning to fix the system.

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