The toll from the collapse of a concrete parking garage under construction in Rockville grew yesterday as rescue teams found the body of a third worker crushed under the seven layers of crumbled concrete and steel.
The discovery came about 3 p.m., nearly 24 hours after the pancake collapse of the structure that is part of the Fishers Place project, at Twinbrook Parkway and Fishers Lane near the Twinbrook Metro station.
Rescue crews working in shifts had labored through the darkness Friday night as well as a steady rain yesterday, spurred on by the hope given by the intermittent barking of search dogs. That hope was dashed when rescuers located the body of the last victim where he apparently had died immediately when the collapse occurred.
Thomas Carr, assistant chief of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, said the construction worker, part of a crew from North Carolina, was found about 40 feet from where rescuers had been concentrating their search. Authorities did not identify the missing man, but family members and co-workers at the scene identified him as Jose Ramirez, 36.
Authorities said that Ramirez was from Mexico and that his wife, a U.S. citizen, had come to the accident scene with their 1 1/2-year-old daughter. The victim was part of a crew that worked 15 days, then got 15 days off; their latest 15-day shift started Monday.
Carr said crews had been walking around and checking every time each layer of the structure was removed when they noticed the man, barely visible to the side.
"The medical examiner will have to make a final determination, but it appears the impact was immediate," Carr said.
Ramirez's body was removed from the site about 6 p.m., authorities said.
County police released the names of the two men pronounced dead at the scene Friday: Carl G. Fisher of Wadesboro, N.C., and Hubaldo M. Andrade of Chapel Hill, N.C. An unidentified construction worker who was injured was taken to Suburban Hospital, where he was in critical condition last night.
They were part of a 15-member construction crew employed by Buckner Steel Erection, based in Graham, N.C., police reported.
Many are part of a subculture of workers who travel from job to job and town to town putting up the infrastructure of the American landscape -- office buildings and hospitals, prisons and bridges.
Fisher's brother, Dewey, who is also a construction worker but is not employed on the Fishers Place project, said his 42-year-old brother worked sunup to sundown, sometimes 11 days straight, pulling in maybe $20 an hour and then going home to hunt and garden -- or see his daughter, who lived with his ex-wife in Charlotte.
"When it started falling, I reckon he jumped," Dewey Fisher said. "It's lucky it happened now. What would have happened if that . . . gave way when the parking deck was finished?"
Federal and state occupational safety and health investigators were at the scene yesterday and are looking into the cause of the collapse. Montgomery police are investigating the deaths.
Asked why they had not found the body earlier, Carr said that rescue workers had been focusing largely on the direction given by rescue dogs.
"I know for all of us it was certainly emotional after this 23-hour effort," Carr said.
During the effort to remove Ramirez's body, about 60 emergency rescue workers labored in tandem with heavy-equipment operators, swinging sledgehammers, using blowtorches and chain saws and carrying away rubble in buckets.
The rescue workers make up one of 28 teams used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to emergencies nationwide. The Montgomery squad responded to last year's terrorist attack on the Pentagon and to the 1985 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
In the hours after the garage collapsed, rescue workers worried about the integrity of a freestanding wall, said Pete Piringer, county fire and rescue spokesman. Workers rigged braces onto the wall, which was stabilized by about 3 a.m. yesterday, Piringer said.
The general contractor for the garage, which was to have six bays, was James G. Davis Construction Corp. Davis officials identified Tindall Corp., a Spartanburg, S.C., company, as the subcontractor for the concrete.
Tindall was sued in federal court in 2000 after a concrete pedestrian bridge it was building at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte collapsed, injuring more than 100 people.
A few months ago, 12 victims settled lawsuits with Tindall and the speedway. According to published reports, Tindall officials described the collapse as "unfortunate" and said that it was pleased to resolve the claims. Neither Tindall nor the speedway admitted liability in the incident.
Tindall officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Staff writers Ruben Castaneda and Clarence Williams and staff researcher Margaret Smith contributed to this report.