It was business as usual at Knez Building Material Co.’s distribution building in Vancouver on Monday morning.
“We were just nonchalantly working. Everything was going normal, and noises started happening,” employee Joe Sweeney said.
Within seconds Sweeney says the building’s roof started collapsing right where he was working.
“Well, we were loading the back of the truck. … all of a sudden we hear the booms, see cracking and the posts collapsing. We bolted as soon as we could,” Sweeney said.
He and the two other men with him ran for cover.
“I got in the semi-truck as quick as I could. Daniel bolted and Eric covered his head and prayed,” Sweeney said. “That crane actually saved us from anymore collapsing happening.”
Vancouver firefighters say if it wasn’t for that truck with a crane’s boom, this could have turned out much worse. The collapsing roof landed on the boom, giving the workers time to get to safety.
The roof also took down a main water pipe, causing water to flow out of the building.
“That’s a very common call we get when we get long stretches of cold, and then when pipes start to thaw, they start the flow,” Vancouver Fire spokesman Joe Spatz said.
The outside of the structure is now cracked at the seams but is still standing.
“When the roof collapses like that, the weight of the roof pushes the walls out. You can see how it’s bowed out and the seams and seals have been broken. That’s why we keep everyone back. This is definitely a collapse zone,” Spatz said.
Sweeney is just happy to be alive.
“Just happy to be here, and hoping to still have a job,” he said.
Vancouver firefighters say the weight of snow and ice on the roof is likely the cause of the collapse.