Spartanburg, SC Building Collapse, Oct 1977


Spartanburg, S.C. (UPI) -- Rescue workers pulled the bodies of five construction workers from the wreckage of an abandoned office building that collapsed as it was being readied for demolition in downtown Spartanburg Saturday.
Three of the men were out-of-state construction workers and two were from Spartanburg. They were identified as JAMES RUSTY RUSSELL, foreman for the Tompkins Demolition Co. of Oklahoma City, Okla.; JACK DEUTSCH, of Plantation, Fla., and DENNIS COLLINS, both with the Big Chief Construction Co. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; FRED PARRIS of Spartanburg with the Joe Durham Construction Co.; and Spartanburg city employee JAMES GILLESPIE.
Police estimated about 40 feet of rubble fell on the men.
A police spokesman said the five men were standing just outside the back of the eight-story office building when it collapsed on top of them. The men were part of a construction crew that was placing explosives in the building in preparation for a scheduled demolition Sunday.
The building, which was built at the turn of the century, had been almost vacant for nearly for 10 years. It was to have been demolished as part of a Spartanburg urban renovation project.
Officials said the building collapsed in about five seconds. The building crumbled about 11:20 a.m. and it took them more than six hours to recover the five bodies.
Joe Durham, head of the Durham Construction Co., was standing with the five victims preparing to put some explosives in the building when he heard
"some creaking."
Durham said JACK DEUTSCH looked up and said,
"Good Lord, that thing's coming down."
"Something just told me to turn to the left and run," Durham said. "I thank the Lord that I am here. I am a very lucky man."
He said DEUTSCH was three feet behind him when the building fell.
"I felt someone behind me tugging at my shirt just as the debris hit," he said.
Durham was hit on the back and the legs by falling debris but was not hospitalized.
Gil Blackwell, one of the workers, was about 20 feet away from the building when it collapsed.
"It just came down with a big bang," he said. "It was the biggest bang I ever heard."

Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1977-10-09