BOISE, Idaho – Three people were killed and nine others injured Wednesday when a hangar under construction collapsed on the grounds of an airport in Boise, Idaho, authorities said.
Five people injured in the wreckage at the Boise airport are in critical condition, the city said in a statement Wednesday night.
Authorities responded around 5 p.m. to a privately owned steel-framed hangar that suffered a “catastrophic” collapse, Boise Fire Department Chief of Operations Aaron Hummel said during an earlier news conference. Everyone at the site was accounted for till Wednesday evening, he said.
According to the city council report, 3 of them died on the spot. It said fire crews were working to clear the scene and rescued several victims.
“It was a very disturbing scene,” Hummel said, describing the incident as a “massive collapse” of the building's structure. “I don't know what's causing it, but I can tell you it's a pretty global decline,” he said.
Boise airport operations were not affected, officials said.
Terra Furman was driving on Interstate 84 around 5:30 p.m. when she saw at least 20 police cars, ambulances and fire trucks about a quarter mile (400 meters) from the airport entrance. They were around what she described as a crane folded in half and a building collapsed in an 'M' shape.
“The walls were still up at one point and the middle collapsed on both sides,” he said.
Hummel said some of the victims were on a ladder or other elevated platform when the building collapsed, requiring some special rescue efforts. He confirmed that a crane also collapsed in the incident.
Leticia Ramirez, a spokeswoman for St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, said emergency and trauma teams are working with first responders to treat patients from the scene.
Officials are investigating the cause of the collapse. It happened to be next to the Jackson Jet Center, which offers private jet rentals and maintenance.
City of Boise permit records show that contractor Big D Builders received a permit to build a 39,000-square-foot (3,623-square-meter) jet hangar for the Jackson Jet Center.
The $6.2 million project involved the construction of a concrete foundation and metal building. Messages sent by phone and email seeking comment from Big D Builders were not immediately returned.
“Our hearts go out to all those affected by this horrific event,” Jessica Flynn, CEO of the Jackson Jet Center, said in a statement.
The collapse occurred where the company's new hangar was under construction, just west of the existing Jackson Jet Center, Flynn said. He said dozens of people work at the site.
“We don't know what caused the hangar collapse,” Flynn said. “Our focus now is on supporting our team and partners during this difficult time.”
James Quintana was on his way to the airport when he saw emergency vehicles pass him. He said he immediately thought it was a plane crash. He then saw the collapsed hangar and helpers helping the victims.
“I'm retired law enforcement, and when there's so much commotion, so many emergency personnel and vehicles, something big has happened,” he said. “It was a terrible scene.”
Cody McGowan was working about 100 yards (91 meters) from the building when he heard what sounded like a loud dog whining. When he looked up, he saw a 3 ½ to 4 storey high hangar collapsing on its own and part of a crane on top of it.
“When I walk in there, you're like, 'Wow,'” he said. “It's shocking to see a building collapse on its own.”