The Bridgeport Index
The girls were running down Halsell Street in downtown Bridgeport when a large metal awning came crashing down, the city said.
Inefficient structural supports and weather factors contributed to the collapse of a downtown storefront awning that killed a teenager and injured another, according to a city engineer's preliminary report released Friday.
The 40-foot section of awning over Club Barbell had not shown signs of distress before it collapsed on a calm summer day, so "we must conclude that this is a tragic accident," wrote Bridgeport City Engineer Konstantine Bakintas, who works for a Grapevine engineering company.
He told The Associated Press that he and his colleagues looked at photographs and inspected the site after the collapse but not the awning debris, which had been removed. He said he does not know the building's age or when the awning was attached to it; city officials have been unable to find those records.
"I don't know if it was built improperly because I don't know the building codes at the time," he said.
Two 17-year-olds, who had started their senior year the previous day, were jogging on a downtown sidewalk Tuesday after school when the awning suddenly fell on them. Leslie Denison died at the scene, and Rebekah Logan suffered severe facial cuts and was hospitalized overnight.
Both were cheerleaders and ran cross-country for their 600-student high school in Bridgeport, which is about 45 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Norris Cheves, the building's owner, declined to comment Friday.
The metal awning had a wood frame, and humidity over time would cause it to shrink, swell and possibly warp, according to the report. It was attached to the top of the building, but a "grouted stone block wall will wear over time and will not have the integrity it did when it was first built," Bakintas said.
How the awning was attached played a critical role in the collapse, said Brian G. Pierce, a structural engineer hired by Bakintas to study the site. It was placed so high that the top of the building was not visible, skewing the weight distribution, but there was no evidence of proper structural supports such as braces or that it was attached by bolts, Pierce said in the report.
Also, the front wall may have pulled away from the roof because it was not reinforced with steel, Pierce said, adding that it's unclear whether the awning was attached to the stone facade or the wall.
The report, which is to be presented to city officials, also addressed the two other stores' awnings on either side of Club Barbell. One store's awning is fine, but the other has structural problems and is a hazard, according to the report.
"This was our effort to quickly assess what's happening," Bakintas said.