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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Police Sargent Discusses Building Collapse

Aired December 4, 2002 - 11:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're joined now on the telephone by Sgt. Gabe Trevino to get the latest on that.
Sgt. Trevino, what do you know about who may be trapped inside there?

SGT. GABE TREVINO, SAN ANTONIO POLICE: Good morning, Leon.

We're not real sure. We're got some witness statements that are telling us that there may be some people underneath a walkway when it collapsed. And we certainly want to make sure if that's the case, we want to get them out as quick as we can. We're hoping that that's not the case, but just in case it is, we're going to be working very diligently in the next several hours to try to remove a lot of that debris.

HARRIS: So you're sure there was a walkway there, the walkway you mean there on the sidewalk, or was there another elevated walkway there or what?

TREVINO: No, there was a sidewalk that was covered with just paneled roofing, I guess you could say, a temporary situation for people to walk underneath, and that's what collapsed. The rubble fell on top of that and collapsed that area.

HARRIS: OK, got you.

As we heard earlier this morning, and according to wire reports now, three people have been taken to the hospital at this point. Is that true?

TREVINO: That's correct, and all three of those are construction workers; two of them taken from critical condition here from the scene, and the other one certainly injured, but not as critical as the two. We're hoping that's all we have, but again, we want to make sure there's no victims underneath all that rubble.

HARRIS: Can you give us an idea of the extent of the injuries that those men sustained. Were they on the upper level there and had fallen down through, or did they have the upper level fall down on top of them?

TREVINO: One of them, the one that I saw, that had some head injuries and some other injuries throughout his body was actually close to that walkway that I was talking about when it collapsed. And he got thrown off into the street. The other two, from what I understand, were on top of the rubble when that wall fell down. So they were actually on top.

HARRIS: What about the back wall of this structure? We were talking a little while ago to one of the downtown denizens there, a gentleman who works in a building not far from there, and he was saying that the back wall of this structure is shored up pretty much the same exact way this front wall was and the back wall is there on your Riverwalk. Any concern about that back wall?

TREVINO: Actually, that's the front wall. What collapsed is actually the back wall of the building. So the front wall, which is still standing, sure, we have to be concerned about that. As a matter of fact, to the points where we closed off that street from vehicular and pedestrian traffic. And we've also closed off a small portion of the Riverwalk, which is right below that. And we have our code compliance officials there inspecting that aspect of the building. So what actually collapsed is actually the rear, and not the front.

HARRIS: OK, that's a good clarification for us. All the pictures that we're looking at this morning are actually of the back of the building.

As we've understood it, this has been a building that has been under some reconstruction for some time and had been gutted to try to convert this building into a luxury hotel. Is that correct?

TREVINO: I don't know, Leon. I can't tell you what exactly they're trying to build. I can tell you that they were trying to keep the facade to keep the historical look of the building, and that the interior was what was going to be under heavy construction.

HARRIS: What about the buildings on the other side of it?

TREVINO: We're not concerned at this point. We're going to be looking at those. I don't know what shots you have, but from where I'm looking, those beams don't look to be connected to those other buildings. But again, there will be some inspectors looking at those; I'm sure the fire department is going to be looking at those to make sure that those buildings, the integrity of the building, hasn't been compromised.

HARRIS: Got you know whether or not there was a full construction crew on the scene yet by that time of the morning?

TREVINO: I believe so. I believe there was approximately 20. I can't give you an exact number, but approximately 20 workers were there when this occurred.

HARRIS: Right now, you say that you believe there may be up to three who are still trapped inside.

TREVINO: We don't know. We're hearing that -- some witnesses said that they believe that they saw some people -- as in plural -- in the walkway when it collapsed, but that has not been confirmed. We haven't made any contact with anybody in the rubble, and we're hoping that's not the case. But if it is, we're working just as quick as we can. You can see the firemen just taking brick by brick, hand by hand, removing that to the street. And as that happens, we have the heavy equipment removing it from the actual street itself. It will take us a little bit of time, but we're working as quick as we can.

HARRIS: We'll let you get back to it. But I want to ask you one last question.

TREVINO: Sure.

HARRIS: The witness we talked to said he had seen a bus that was damaged by some of that falling debris. Can you give us a report on that bus and whether or not anybody on that bus was hurt?

TREVINO: I did hear that also, Leon, but I don't know whether or not anybody on the bus -- I don't believe anybody on the bus injured. I believe there was some damage to the bus, the windows and that sort of thing, but I haven't received any reports of any injuries from that bus.

HARRIS: Here's hoping you get more good news like that coming.

TREVINO: Absolutely.

HARRIS: Sergeant Gabe Trevino, thanks, we'll let you get back to work. You've got a busy morning ahead of you.

TREVINO: Thank you, Leon.

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