Apartments condemned after walkway collapses

Tenants evacuated Wednesday night
Sep. 05, 2014 @ 08:10 AM

Lenoir city officials condemned an apartment building Thursday after its first- and second-floor walkways collapsed the previous night, forcing residents of four units to evacuate.

The owners of Caldwell Apartments at 1923 Norwood St. SW, David and Benny Helton, were given 90 days to bring the building up to code or it will be demolished, Fire Chief Ken Briscoe said. It is one of two buildings there.

The collapse was caused about 8 p.m. Wednesday by a concrete foundation supporting the first-floor walkway giving way.

James Spears, 45, was watching TV from the living room of Unit 312, which is on the second floor, when it happened.

"I heard a pop and looked out the front door" and found he had no walkway, Spears said. "When I saw what happened, I had to calm myself down."

After that, he called the Lenoir Fire Department, which has a station behind the building.

James Michaels, 64, was sitting out on the walkway in front of his second-floor apartment in the building across the parking lot when the collapse happened.

"I heard a rumble, and the whole top deck just bowed down," Michaels said. "The concrete underneath literally dropped."

Firefighters got Spears out of his apartment by raising a ladder to a back window. The residents of another three apartments also were evacuated. All are being temporarily housed at the Red Carpet Inn in Lenoir.

Bright yellow police tape surrounds the apartment building.

"I hope I can get my possessions out," Spears said.

Spears had lived at the Caldwell Apartments for the past five years. He said he heard the foundation crack four or five months ago and complained to the Heltons.

Neither David nor Benny Helton could be reached for comment.