'Just get out!': Guard hailed for moving resort guests before collapse

Story highlights

  • The situation hasn't changed noticeably since Monday, an expert says
  • Many guests will be able to get belongings, some will not, a resort executive says
  • A sinkhole caused a building at Summer Bay Resort in Florida to collapse Sunday night
  • The building was starting to fall apart as the evacuation began, a guard says
Judging from the yells and sounds of breaking glass, security guard Richard Shanley thought there was a fight at Summer Bay Resorts' building 104 on Sunday night.
Then he listened a little closer.
"I hear people coming out and hollering, 'The building is coming apart!' At that time, I looked down the breezeway, and I could literally see the building coming down in pieces," Shanley recalled to CNN on Tuesday.
That's when Shanley, who'd been flagged down by one of the guests, hustled door to door, waking guests up to ensure everyone left the building's 24 vacation villas as windows cracked and parts of the building separated.
Later that night, much of the three-story structure collapsed into a sinkhole at the central Florida resort near Walt Disney World.
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The sinkhole -- 110 to 120 feet wide and about 15 feet deep, according to an on-site expert -- swallowed a number of rooms and, with them, clothing and other belongings that the harried guests left behind. But no one was injured, earning Shanley praises from managers of the resort in Clermont, near Orlando.
"I'm proud of his quick thinking and responsiveness," the resort's executive vice president, Juan Barillas, told reporters Tuesday morning.
One end of the building -- which had held two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas -- still stands, but the rest has become a heap of debris. A guest in another building, Ben Warrick of Des Moines, Iowa, caught the collapse on video camera, showing part of the structure, already cracked and separated from the rest, falling with a loud rumble in the dark of night.
Most of the resorts' hundreds of other guests were unaffected -- two other structures were evacuated as a precaution, and the power and gas service that had been cut in some other villas was restored by Tuesday morning.
The other bit of relatively good news? There weren't any noticeable changes between Monday and Tuesday, Doug Yovaish, an expert hired by the resort, told CNN around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Still, many of the evacuated guests were without important belongings, such as passports -- items that resort officials say probably won't be recovered. The Red Cross was helping 17 families who were staying at the resort with food and clothing through gift cards.
Two buildings evacuated as a precaution are expected to reopen by week's end, a resort executive said. And some guests who left behind their belongings in the most heavily damaged structure will be able to get them back.
Others, though, will not.
"They will become part of the demolition," said Barillas.
The resort is working with county and other officials to ensure foreign guests get new passports and will make sure no guest suffers a financial loss, said the resort president, Paul Caldwell.
Caldwell, addressing a reporter's question about whether anyone had seen signs the building was in distress before the evacuation, said the security department had no record of any complaints.
Shanley told CNN someone flagged him down around 11 p.m. Sunday, just a few minutes into his shift. He said he banged on guests' doors, waking some of them up.
"I said, 'Get out to the stairwells as quick as you can. Don't worry about grabbing your stuff. Just get out!'" recalled Shanley, who started working at the resort about two months ago.
An interior breezeway connecting parts of the building "actually started collapsing right after I got there on scene to get the guests out," he told reporters in a news conference Tuesday morning.
"I was in the corridors of the breezeway, and the ceilings were actually coming down," he said.
A couple and their infant escaped through a window because a door frame had collapsed, witness Maggie Ghamry told CNN affiliate WFTV on Monday.
"He, his wife and an infant, he had to break the window so they could escape," said Ghamry, who said she escaped with her three children but lost the belongings she'd had in her room.
Some guests tossed their luggage over their balconies, WFTV reported.
Julian Moreno of San Antonio said he heard strange noises after he was told to evacuate.
"The center balcony, (there was) a lot of noise like popcorn and (banging), like a sledgehammer hitting a concrete block," Moreno told WFTV.