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Houston Building Collapse: Stairwell Failure Caused Deadly Accident

Earlier, our team reported about a Houston building collapse that took three workers' lives and sent one more to the hospital. It happened during the construction of Marathon Oil’s new tower—a 15-story building slated to become the energy giant’s new headquarters in 2021. 

As the story broke, officials couldn’t provide details about the accident. Initially, the building was deemed too unstable for them to enter and assess the situation. However, workers at the accident scene believed that the collapse occurred at a flight of stairs in the building.  

Now, more details have emerged about the deadly Marathon Oil stairwell failure. 

What We Know About the Houston Stairwell Collapse 

According to The New York Times, the building's interior contained a “pre-cast interior" concrete staircase. Alanna Reed, a spokeswoman for Houston Public Works, said the stairs were designed to look as though they’re floating. They collapsed as workers were in the process of setting them.  

According to Assistant Chief Ruy Lozano of the Houston Fire Department, the collapse began on the building's 13th and 14th floors. The rubble from the failed stairwell fell “pancake style," trapping the bodies of three killed workers below. Lozano confirmed that a recovery process for the bodies had not been started as firefighters are still concerned about a secondary collapse. 

“We’re going to take all the time necessary to ensure the safe recovery of the bodies,” Lozano said. “It’s a very unstable structure.” 

Houston Public Works Department Inspectors Visited Site Hours Before Accident 

Reed confirmed that inspectors from Houston’s Public Works Department visited the site hours before it collapsed on Monday. She told reporters that the inspectors had found no “red flag” and that they returned to the construction site after the collapse to confirm that the failure occurred at the stairwell. Additionally, inspectors were at the site last Friday to approve a ceiling covering. 

Harvey Builders Had Two Serious Safety Violation Last Year 

According to records revealed by The Houston Chronicle, Harvey Builders has a recent history of safety violations in Austin, Texas. The construction company is currently contesting the violations that were regarding material handling equipment and fall protection. It also received a violation in 2017 because of inadequate hazard communication.  

We’ll continue to follow updates as officials work to stabilize the building and recover the bodies of the victims.