Wind may have played a factor in the collapse Wednesday of an under-construction hangar that led to the injuries of two construction workers.
Blake Swafford, director of the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, said crews with Superior Foundations and Steel Erection had begun erecting the hangar’s steel Monday. The collapse injured two workers with Superior Foundations; Swafford said the two originally were taken to Paulding WellStar Hospital, with one possibly later taken to WellStar Kennestone in Marietta.
“One was conscious and talking when he left the site, the other one, I don’t believe, was conscious,” Swafford said.
Neither Swafford nor officials with the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, who first responded to the scene, were able to provide the names of the injured workers.
“[The crew] had started erecting the steel on Monday, so they had two and a half days worth of work in erecting the steel, had close to half the building up,” Swafford said. “[They] had some gusts of wind, and it unfortunately collapsed on them.
“Wind, obviously, is a contributing factor. I don’t know if it’s the only thing—[Occupational Safety and Health Administration] will do an investigation, probably the structural engineer that designed the building, as well as the company that provided the steel … we’ve called an independent investigator as well, so it will be studied and investigated to the best of our ability to figure out exactly what happened why it happened and hopefully not have an issue like that again.”
Swafford said after the collapse, he checked the weather conditions, which showed wind gusts of 17 mph.
“It could’ve easily been twice that earlier today,” he added. “We’re up at the top of a little mountain ridge here, and we do get a significant amount of wind gusts—it’s not unusual at all for us to have wind gusts in the 20-to-25-mph range. I would not have thought that that would exceed what the building could withstand. Buildings are designed to a maximum wind load once they’re completely erected and completely put together, so during the construction process they’re obviously more vulnerable. The company that provided the steel is I’m sure going to do an analysis to see what wind load it should have been able to accommodate at that stage in the construction, so maybe we’ll know at that point whether it was just wind or if there were other factors.”
Cpl. Ashley Henson with the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said deputies arrived at the airport after receiving a call about the collapse about 12:45 p.m. Deputies remained on the scene for several hours as officials awaited for OSHA officials and structural engineers to arrive.
Swafford said the collapse would delay completion of the hangar’s construction for an undetermined amount of time.
“This is the new hangar we’ve been building in partnership with our [fixed-based operator], the Paulding Jet Center,” he said. “[It’s a] 35,000-square-foot hangar, so it would accommodate much, much larger airplanes than the first set of hangars we built. It was scheduled to be completed in March—the project was already a little bit behind schedule because of some issues that we had with the foundation when the foundation was poured.
“This is obviously going to push the schedule even further. It’s unfortunate, but our main concern right now are the folks that are injured and finding out what happened so we make sure don’t ever have an issue like this on any of our projects in the future.”
Swafford said that once OSHA and other officials complete their investigation into the collapse, the site will have to be cleaned up and new steel will have the be ordered. The completion of those steps will dictate the project’s new timetable.
“It’s something that is unfortunate and disappointing, but I don’t know that anything was done wrong or anything was done inappropriately,” Swafford said. “Hopefully the investigation will reveal if there was anything done incorrectly, but I suspect that it’s just going to be one of those freak things where they were at a critical stage in the construction and the wind exceeded what the building could support without the building completely put together.”