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'Get away from there. You're gonna die' | Contractor said he warned of Davenport apartment collapse

The co-owner of R.A. Masonry said they were contacted to give a bid for work on the building, but owner Andrew Wold rejected it because it was too high.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — In the days and hours leading up to the partial collapse of the Davenport apartment building at 324 Main St., a contractor said he warned crews working on site it wasn't safe.

Ryan Shaffer co-owns R.A. Masonry. He was doing a job at the former Antonella’s Pizza in February, when Andrew Wold, the owner of the collapsed building, approached him.

"Andrew contacted us to give them a bid on the back of the building to repair the exterior masonry that was crumbling and falling," Shaffer said. "Our bid was to support the building all the way up, replace the section of wall on the inside that was missing and then redo the façade of the brick on the outside."

He said he thought the bid they gave was reasonable, but Wold rejected it because the cost was too high. Shaffer and his crew walked away, he said, because of his concerns about the safety of the building.

"If certain steps weren't taken to properly support it, then you can't just start removing bricks without something like this happening or somebody getting hurt," Shaffer said. "So that's what made us walk away from that job."

During the lengthy bid process, Shaffer said he was inside the building around a dozen times. He described a section of wall in the basement as being "compressed."

Working nearby, he said he watched the building over the next few months and witnessed bricks occasionally falling off of it.

"Each time I came over, it was worse," he said. "Every time I looked at it."

Just two days before the collapse, on Friday, May 26, he said he witnessed windows shattering.

"Because part of the building was dropping," he said. "There's a whole strip of windows all the way up and all of them shattered and blew out."

He described water pouring out of the downspout but not knowing where it came from because it hasn't rained recently. Bricks kept falling.

"Saturday I saw that they're still working, I said, 'You need to stop working on it. It's not safe to be working underneath it,'" Shaffer said to other workers. "'Get away from there. You're gonna die.'"

He said one of the people he warned told their boss who called 911, but he doesn't know what happened during or as a result of that call. News 8 has filed an open records request to obtain that phone call.

On Sunday, he gave the workers the same warning. They left the building at 3:30 and the west wall of it collapsed just an hour and 25 minutes later.

"It blew my mind when I saw what actually happened," Shaffer said. "I knew something bad was gonna happen. I just thought, I didn't think the whole thing... From where the brick is cracked off here, I thought maybe 10 or 15 feet would go, but only on the outside."

One of the men working near the building Shaffer had warned on Saturday came up to him on Tuesday and thanked him.

"He came out and gave me a hug and said he saved my life, so that feels good," he said. "But knowing there's still other people in there and there's a lot of injured people, people homeless, businesses shut down, it's crazy. There's a thought of should I have gone in there and said something to somebody or should I have made a different call?"

For more information about the apartment collapse and what we know as of Thursday night, click here.

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