Apartment ‘Totally Unusable' After Crane Collapse; More Than 500 Residents Forced to Move

A crane collapsed into a Dallas apartment building Sunday, killing one and injuring five more

Those who called Elan City Lights home until Sunday afternoon will be forced to find a new place to live.

"The building has become totally unusable for residential purposes and you will not be able to reoccupy your apartment," apartment managers announced Monday in a note posted online.

Management plans to work with all of the residents to find a new home and have extended the per diem of $100 per day per leaseholder through Friday.

Many of the residents spent Monday filing in to their dark, flooded units in a race against time.

"It really makes you think, 'do I need that?'" displaced resident William George-Twyman said. "You have to make split-second decisions, 'do I need that?'"

He emerged from his home with research for his dissertation, clothes for his children and a positive outlook.

"At this point to get upset by that is not going to do anybody any good because it's done. So it's better to say, 'OK, well what can I do to make my life more comfortable right now?'" he said.

But the loss can feel bigger when residents are just starting out -- which is the case for two couples who told NBC 5 they lost everything when a crane used in the construction of a high-rise apartment building and grocery store next door toppled over during Sunday afternoon's storm.

Five people were hurt and one woman was killed in the collapse.

An executive director at Greystar, which owns both properties involved in the collapse, said 534 residents were impacted.

Apartment management informed residents Monday that "as a result of the damage the property sustained, we will not be able to re-occupy our community in the near future."

Jennifer Gonzalez had very little time to decide what would come with her, and what to leave behind. She said residents were escorted into the building in small groups to get some belongings.

“They told us to come grab as much as we could. They gave us about five minutes to grab as much as we could and that was it,” said Gonzalez.

She wore a name tag with a check mark which indicated she’d had her turn to get back into her apartment and collect what she could. Gonzalez said it's unlikely she'll ever get a chance to come back.

She says she doesn’t know what she’ll do next.

“I don’t even think I’m there yet. I don’t think I’ve processed where I’m going to live, what’s next,” she said.

Management said it would refund June rent, zero out utilities and refund all deposits, plus provide $500 for whatever needs residents had.

Checks would be provided June 11 at 3 p.m. at the Latino Cultural Center on Live Oak Street across the street from the complex.

"This was my first alone apartment," Sabian Holmes said.

He's among an estimated 125 residents not able to even step foot inside because of the heavy damage to his unit.

"I'm still in shock, honestly," Holmes said. "Being told that I can't get any of my belongings hasn't really settled in really."

The former Aggie football player said he had irreplaceables on the fifth floor.

"I have signed jerseys all over the place and my personal college jerseys and just stuff that I can't get back," he said.

"It's really stressful," Karla Gutierrez said. "I've never experienced anything like that before."

Gutierrez, a teacher, grabbed her medications and clothes on Sunday night when some residents were escorted in for the first time.

Her software developer boyfriend Rosbel, who did not want to provide his last name, returned for his computer Monday.

"We don't know what's next," he said. "Our cars are gone."

Greystar is providing each lease holder a $100 voucher per day to use in whatever way needed, including car rentals.

Residents forced to start over said they were keeping it in perspective.

"As much as it sucks, I have nothing in my name, I have my dog and my health and it's really all I can be thankful for," Holmes said.

Dallas Fire Rescue said it would work with OSHA representatives in the coming days to devise a plan to remove the crane from the apartment building.

Once work gets started, it is expected to take at least two days to remove.

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