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Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 06/29/2012

Search continues for missing worker after warehouse roof collapse

Crews are planning to dismantle the wall of a Cheverly warehouse Friday afternoon in what is becoming an increasingly desperate effort to rescue a worker believed to be trapped under the debris from a roof collapse Thursday night, authorities said.

Structural engineers arrived at the box-style warehouse in the 1500 block of Cabin Branch Drive Friday morning to determine how best to remove the partially collapsed wall that faces Sheriff Road, said Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department spokesman. The hope, he said, is that removing the wall will allow rescue crews to bring in heavy duty equipment so they can remove the piles of boxes and debris that are believed to have buried a worker Thursday night.

“We still look at this as a rescue,” Brady said. “If we can take out a portion of that wall, we could access the area quicker.”

So far, the rescue effort has been slow-going, hampered by the sheer magnitude of the collapse.

Brady said the warehouse, used by a document management company known as Recall, housed boxes of documents, stacked on shelves nearly 50 feet high and 100 yards long. When someone accidentally ran a fork lift into one of those shelves Thursday night, it started a “domino effect” of collapse, he said.

Shelves hit other shelves, then the support beam for the roof, Brady said. About 12 to 16 workers were able to evacuate, but one remained unaccounted for Thursday night, Brady said. Co-workers said they spotted him alone just moments before the collapse, which occurred in what rescuers are terming, “Aisle 6,” Brady said. The area is now filled with so much debris that “it’s humanly impossible to access,” Brady said.

Brady said the man’s car is in the parking lot, and his wife arrived at the scene Thursday night, saying her husband had not returned home and she had been unable to reach him. He said rescuers tried yelling for the man, calling his cell phone and even calling in search and rescue dogs to track his scent. All those efforts failed.

Brady said the man’s wife had secluded herself though she seemed, “OK, given the circumstances.” He said rescuers are holding out hope the man is still alive.

“We’ve seen rescues in earthquake areas days after the event occurred,” Brady said. “By keeping that belief, it keeps our troops motivated.”

This post has been updated.

By  |  11:53 AM ET, 06/29/2012

 
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