Brooklyn, NY New American Theatre Collapse, Nov 1921

Blame City Inspectors.
“If anyone is responsible,” said Julius Jacobs, the electrical contractor, “it was the city inspectors. I told the District Attorney that. I cannot conceive of any one being blamed under the conditions.

“I have visited the job daily. There was no sign of any weakness in the walls or the superstructure. I had barely been out of the building fifteen minutes today when I heard the crash from a near-by restaurant, where I was taking lunch.

“There were four of my men in the building installing electrical wiring. Two escaped uninjured, but two were badly hurt. I consider it a miracle that practically every man in the building was not killed or seriously injured.”

Harry Roberts of 1,538 East Fifteenth Street, Brooklyn, and Edward Hill of 92 Brooklyn Avenue, two of the electricians, said they also had been unable to give the District Attorney any evidence that would point to criminal negligence.

Roberts gave a vivid description of the collapse and his escape.

“I had just mounted my scaffold with my helper, George Lawson,” said Roberts, “when I heard a crackling noise and saw the ceiling and the walls begin to wave. The noise grew into a roar before I began to realize what was taking place. I jumped to the grouns and rushed toward the entrance in a frantic effort to get outside. Debris was flying all about me. I barely got outside as the walls began to topple in.

Returns to Rescue Injured.
“However, hearing screams for help from my less fortunate fellow-workers, I turned and attempted to enter the building again. There I found Lawson buried under some debris and a timber. His head was bleeding from a bad scalp wound. He had been struck by a piece of brick or mortar as he was following me in a dash for safety.

“It is a wonder to me the death list is not greater. At least fourteen lathers were at work on the ceiling, besides a number of plasterers, hodcarriers and laborers, who were working under their scaffolding. I don’t remember much what happened to them, but I glanced toward them as I ran into the street, and saw their scaffolding being shattered under the tons of bricks and girders tumbling down upon them. They must have been buried alive.”

Roberts said that as far as he knew the building had been substantially erected and the walls had shown no no (sic) signs of weakening up until disaster occurred. He was of the opinion that the girders had been too heavy for the other structural work and may have pulled in the side walls.

“I am at a loss to explain the collapse,” he added, “and cannot help the District Attorney in his case.”

Hill said he was about to enter the building when the structure began to collapse.
“I had just got inside,” he said, “when I heard a rumbling noise such as I have heard before when buildings collapsed. I knew something was wrong and turned and dashed out of the door, with bricks, pieces of timber and mortar dropping all about me. I never stopped until I had crossed the street.

Auto Hits Escaping Workman.
“A plumber’s helper, whose only name I know is ‘Eddie’ was close behind me. He was hit by a Ford touring car as he was crossing the street. He and I were both excited and did not see the approaching machine. He was not badly hurt.

“Finding that I was not hurt, I ran back into the building. The sight horrified me. I could see several of my fellow-workers buried under the tangled mass of mortar, iron and other debris. Several were frantically calling for help, others were silent as if dead. I could not help them. I was dazed. I don’t quite remember what happened after that, but I gave all the help I could.”

While asserting that he was willing to render the District Attorney all help possible, Hill said he did not know of any evidence that would point to criminal negligence.
“The city building inspectors were on the job,” he said, “and it was up to them to point out any violations. I know of no complaints and heard nothing during my daily work that would indicate that the building was not properly constructed.”

The examination of witnesses was continued by the Assistant District Attorneys almost all night.

BARKIN, ISAAC, 35, plasterer, 293 Sutter Av., Brooklyn.
BRINEY, CORNELIUS, lather, 654 West 51st St., Manhattan.
GUTHRIE, WILLIAM P., 80, 3, 821 Farragut Road, Brooklyn.
SHERIDAN, ALBERTS, 30, foreman, metal lathers, 305 West 111th St., Manhattan.
STEIN, PHILIP, 31, cement contractor, 294 Howard Av., Brooklyn.
STONE, THOMAS A., 663 Madison St., West New York
Two unidentified men.

GARTLAND, WILLIAM, bricklayer, 188 Schaeffer St., Brooklyn.
Three unidentified men.