No injuries in church collapse in Northeast

Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
Aug. 7, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Children and adults safely escaped a church Thursday morning as a portion of the building collapsed.

According to witness accounts and authorities, two Kansas City Police Department detectives were sitting at the stoplight at Independence and Benton when they witnessed a large puff of what looked to be smoke, then children scrambling out of the rear of the building as rubble was falling around them at around 10 a.m. Thursday. One area residents who lives across the street said he was sitting on his porch when he saw the side of the building just come down.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like that happen,” the resident said.

East Patrol police officers responded within seconds and entered the building to determine if any additional people were trapped in the rubble. Two nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution. The Rios de Agua Viva church, located at 3200 Independence Ave., is home to a church, library and a daycare. It was originally built around the turn of the 20th century and operated for many years as the Benton Theater. All of the 64 people were evacuated to Independence Boulevard Christian Church where family would pick-up children. Authorities said there was 44 children and 20 staff members in the building. Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte tweeted several officers who entered the collapsed structure were brought to an area hospital as a precautionary measure after breathing in dust.

Parents with children at the vacation Bible school can call the pastor’s cell phone: 816-309-0938. Parents are being told they could pick-up their children at the Independence Boulevard Christian Church. Pastor Herminio Leal declined to comment at the time.

Authorities detoured traffic around Independence and Benton until around 1 p.m. Battalion Chief James Garrett, public information officer for the Kansas City Fire Department, said a collapse zone was being secured around the three story building. Police said the building would likely be torn down on Thursday.

Garrett added that he couldn’t speculate on the cause of the collapse until an engineer was able to view the damage, even then it would be somewhat difficult to tell.

“The whole building is dangerous,” Garrett said.

Assisting the police and fire department was the Kansas City Emergency Response team and the Kansas City Power and Light. Duane Hallock, regional communications director for the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross is assisting two families, seven people total, who lived in the building next to the collapsed church. Hallock said the Red Cross is providing emergency shelter and food.

“The fire department told them it wasn’t safe for them at the time,” Hallock said.

Third District Councilwoman Melba Curls represents the area in which the building collapsed. She said she wanted to check to make sure everyone was safe because she knows people in the area.

“I’m glad to see everyone was ok,” Curls said.

Chris Hernandez, director of city communications, said the city’s Neighborhood Preservation Division did not have the building at on its dangerous buildings list. If it were, it would not be occupied.

“Keep in mind that the city does not randomly inspect buildings for structural problems [too many buildings, not enough staff],” Hernandez said. “The dangerous buildings list and codes violations are a complaint driven process, meaning we investigate when complaints are filed/called in.”

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