Survivor of deadly Iowa building collapse sues owner, city of Davenport

Dayna Feuerbach says Andrew Wold and his companies, city of Davenport didn't evacuate residents despite 'imminent danger'

ByHolly Yan, Paul P. Murphy and Melissa Alonso, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Woman who had leg amputated after Iowa building collapse sues
A survivor of the deadly Davenport building collapse in Iowa is suing the building's owners and the city.

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A resident of the Iowa apartment building that partially collapsed - killing three residents and destroying dozens of homes - is suing the building's owner and the city of Davenport for negligence, saying they knew about the dangers but failed to warn residents, CNN reported.

The suit, filed by tenant Dayna Feuerbach, said the owners of the building, Andrew Wold and his companies, "recognized the imminent danger residents faced, yet allowed the building to deteriorate while failing to warn residents that their lives were in danger."

In one instance, Feuerbach claimed in the lawsuit, the owners tried painting over cracked exterior walls of the six-story building to hide the imminent threat.

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For the first time since the May 28 collapse, a representative for Wold responded to CNN's requests for comment.

"We are devastated by the building's collapse and our hearts go out to everyone involved, people displaced, people injured, and of course the people that lost their lives," Wold's spokesperson, Harlan Loeb, told CNN on Tuesday.

In response to the lawsuit, Loeb said he and Wold were aware of the litigation but said it's "certainly secondary to the (building's) collapse."

When reached for comment, the city of Davenport said, "On the advice of counsel, we cannot comment on pending litigation."

The lawsuit names several other defendants, including contractors and engineers who worked on the building, known as The Davenport.

The suit says that after the purchase of the building in "late 2020 or early 2021," Wold and his companies received numerous notifications about the deterioration of the building but "completely and utterly failed to take any action to make the necessary repairs and protect the tenants."

"The section of the wall that failed and initiated this collapse was known to be dangerous and in dire need of repair for years," the suit said.

READ MORE | Missing man's body recovered at Davenport, Iowa building collapse site

Just days before part of the building came crashing down, inspectors noticed a brick facade had separated from the interior wall and appeared "ready to fall imminently," according to a letter from an engineer dated May 24.

The "brick faade is unlikely to be preserved in place, but it can be brought down in a safe, crontrolled manner," the engineer said in the letter.

The interior wall of the downtown building also appeared to be losing stability and was "causing deformation," the engineer said.

A repair permit was issued the same day, according to city records. And a May 25 site visit confirmed repair work had started.

But on May 27, the day before the collapse, a 911 caller said part of a wall at the building was "bulging out," the Quad-City Times reported, citing 911 audio obtained by the paper.

Then on May 28, the same part of the wall suddenly crumbled, according to a CNN review of property photos released by the city.

The catastrophe killed three residents - Branden Colvin, Ryan Hitchcock and Daniel Prien.

Mayor Mike Matson said the city has gotten inquiries about the 911 call made the day before the collapse and told reporters on Monday he wants "to assure the public that we are looking into this."

Loeb did not answer CNN's questions about recent work that began on the building five days before its collapse.

"We are working diligently to wrap our heads around all the building issues," Loeb said Tuesday.

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New details have also emerged about the 10 minutes leading up to the collapse.

One of five support braces leaning against the wall started bending, and parts of the brick faade crumbled around it, according to surveillance video taken from the roof of a nearby building and obtained by CNN.

The video cuts off as the building collapses as power is knocked out, said the person who owns the camera, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.

The support braces match those identified in instructions from a structural engineer's report in May that called for braces to be put in place to support and secure the brick faade.

The report, released by the city, was compiled by a private-sector engineer who accompanied city inspectors this year during visits to the building.

About two minutes and 43 seconds before the collapse, a large chunk of brick faade falls from underneath a second-floor window, the video shows.

Fifty-five seconds before the collapse, a lower portion of the wall near the ground appears to crumble.

One second before the video abruptly cuts off, the building is seen collapsing.

"Despite knowledge of the inevitable nature of this collapse, neither Wold, the City of Davenport, nor the licensed engineers ordered the necessary evacuation of the building," Feuerbach's lawsuit states.

The suit does not include a specific amount of compensation sought. But the plaintiff is seeking "an amount that will fairly and adequately compensate her for the damages described herein, as well as punitive damages, together and with interest and costs all as provided by law," the lawsuit states.

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