Building collapses on MLK Blvd, crushes two cars - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Building collapses on MLK Blvd, crushes two cars

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Demolition is complete on a collapsed building, that shutdown Martin Luther King Boulevard.

A pile of bricks, wood and debris was all that was left of a century old building on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The collapse closed down a few blocks surrounding the building for hours Thursday morning.

"A good portion of the building had simply fallen in, also fallen out on a couple of cars and crushed those cars," says Bruce Garner with the Chattanooga Fire Department.

Crews brought in special equipment to search in case anyone was trapped under the debris. No one was injured but a small group of nearby apartment renters were forced to leave.

Next door Salon 38 was closed for business. "If a hair stylist isn't working we're not making money, it's scary," says salon owner Lauren Hollingsworth.

Officials say the building was empty for years, no people, no business and no upkeep. "It's been leaning for a while," Hollingsworth says.

Mayor Ron Littlefield had to see the damage for himself. "This is a larger tragedy this morning than it might appear. It's a roof collapse but it takes one more piece out of the history of old 9th street or MLK Blvd. as we've come to call it," says Littlefield. "I can remember when both sides of the street were lined with buildings that dated back to around 1900, 1910."

Only a couple of those buildings still stand. City inspectors were brought in to survey the damage and the surrounding buildings.  Tactical Services Chief Danny Hague determined that the remaining walls that were left standing needed to be removed, so a city public works track-hoe was brought in to pull down the walls and render the scene safe.

That effort was delayed for a couple of hours while utility crews tried to locate and shut off the gas service to the old building. Once the gas was shut off, demolition work began again, but was stopped when two barrels were found.

One of the barrels was full and marked as a corrosive material. So, Chief Hague called in a cleanup company to remove the two barrels so that they could be disposed of properly.

Channel 3 found out Tower Construction owns the building. No one was available to comment on the collapse Thursday afternoon. Officials say it will be responsible for the cost to clean up.

MLK Boulevard reopened around 6:50 p.m.

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