Morton Salt building wall collapses, salt covers cars at Acura dealership

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Morton Salt wall collapses
A partial wall collapse at the Morton Salt factory dumped tons of salt on cars parked at the Acura dealership next door.

CHICAGO -- When it rains it pours! A wall partially collapsed at the Morton Salt facility at Elston and Potomac in the Goose Island neighborhood, dumping tons of salt out on top of cars at the McGrath Acura dealership.

No one was injured in the avalanche of salt, which crushed the tops of cars and buried at least three vehicles. As many as 11 cars were damaged. Some of them were new to the dealership, others were those of customers waiting for service.

Michael Cristofano's Acura was in for an oil change, but now it's out of commission.

"I first found it surprising and laughable, then you start to think what could have happened. Someone could have been in the car," Cristofano said.

The call first came in as a building collapse. Firefighters arrived to find the southern wall of the Morton Salt storage facility blown out. Their theory was that workers piled the salt too high, putting too much pressure on the decades-old wall.

"We established a collapse zone because that was still may come down it's in a precarious position," said Chicago Fire Dept. Deputy Chief Kenneth Wojtecki.

"Initially we ran because we were panicked the rest of the wall would come down with it," said Noble Jones, general manager at McGrath Acura.

On Tuesday night, as structural engineers determine whether the building is fixable, McGrath Acura is working to replace as many 11 damaged cars. Four of them were brand new and awaiting buyers.

"Usually it's a busy time for us. We're worried more about selling cars not saving cars but it seems right now we have to dig some cars out from the salt," Jones said.

"Representatives from Morton Salt are on site and are working with a structural engineer to ensure the remaining structure is safe and supported," according to a statement from the department of buildings.

City investigators last inspected a sign on March 5, 2014 and refrigeration on November 2, 2012. The building did have an outstanding violation for failure to maintain roof in sound condition and repair, officials said. It isn't clear if that had anything to do with the collapse.

PHOTOS: Morton Salt collapse covers cars at Acura Dealership

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