UPDATED February 7, 2014
By Julie Montanaro
Party goers had a terrifying surprise when the floor beneath them gave way.
It happened at the Seminole Grand Apartments back in 2012
and now six people are suing the complex to pay their medical bills and more.
"The floor just kept caving in more and more."
That's how one party goer described the night the floor gave way at a penthouse party at the Seminole Grand apartments.
It happened back in October 2012. First responders say 55 people were hurt.
Now a half dozen of them have filed suit against the complex.
"It was almost like a something out of a movie. One minute the person that she's looking at is standing there facing her and the next minute she's falling through the floor," attorney Jim Biggart said.
Attorney Jim Biggart has just filed lawsuits on behalf of six party goers including college students Lorrin Rucker and Kilani Davis.
Here's a photo of Rucker with a black eye and stitches
Biggart says Davis suffered a head injury and has scars all over her legs from the people and debris that fell on top of her.
The lawsuit contends Seminole Grand, the Collier Companies and Paradigm Properties Management were all negligent for failing to maintain the apartment building, failing to regularly inspect it and failing to warn residents that the floor was "not stable, not structurally sound and was unreasonably dangerous."
"They've got a duty to the kids that live at Seminole Grand to make sure the building is safe," Biggart said, "and if the kids are gathering for a party and it's not going to be safe, the people that are running that place ought to say you can't do that and that didn't happen here."
We have been trying to get a response from Seminole Grand. That hasn't happened yet.
The complex did release a statement back in 2012 soon after the floor collapse (see full statement below) which said the City of Tallahassee had verified the building was structurally sound and in compliance with state and city codes.
Seminole Grand said the upstairs apartment was a three bedroom residence and was never intended to hold a large crowd.
We'll let you know if Seminole Grand gets back to us with a comment on the lawsuits.
Seminole Grand Release
Tallahassee, FL - October 25, 2012 - 2:40 pm - “In the days since the floor collapse at Seminole Grand, all of us at The Collier Companies have focused our attention on helping our residents and the broader community. Above all, we are concerned for the well-being of the 55 individuals who were injured in this incident, and for the safety and other needs of our residents.
“We are all grateful that there were no life-threatening injuries, and we especially appreciate the exceptional first responders and neighbors, whose swift actions brought immediate help to those in need. I also wish to commend the outstanding team at Seminole Grand, whose actions made sure the impact to our other residents was kept to a minimum.
“We have fully cooperated with authorities, and will continue to do so in any way necessary as we work to further identify the specific cause of the accident. Here are relevant facts as we know them:
- The affected building is unique within Seminole Grand, and is not a regular apartment building of multiple units. Above the complex clubhouse was a single apartment with three bedrooms, a den and a large common area, where most of the partygoers congregated. Only the three residents who leased the unit have been displaced by the accident, and Seminole Grand immediately found them alternative lodging within the complex.
- The City of Tallahassee has verified that the building was structurally sound and was built and maintained in compliance with all applicable State Building Codes and City Codes. The upstairs unit was intended to be used only as a small residence, not as an assembly hall. It was never envisioned to hold a large crowd.
- The event on the night of the accident was a resident-run party, and Seminole Grand in no way sanctioned or participated in it. Attendees learned of the party from friends, emails and online promotions, and the promoters did not inform Seminole Grand of their plans.
- According to police reports, one of the residents of the penthouse told officers that “approximately 200 to 225 people were at the party.” Even the reported 55 injured attendees represent several times more occupants than are authorized under applicable codes and the residents’ lease.
- An online advertisement for the party indicated guests would be required to pay a $2.00 charge to get in the door, but announced that dancers and “shotgirls” would be provided. Police reports indicate that attendees as young as 15 were present at the party.
“It is beyond dispute that the number of guests in the upstairs unit at the time of the accident far exceeded the allowable capacity of the unit. Even though the structure was built in full compliance with all applicable standards, it was never designed to support the combined weight of so many individuals. This undoubtedly placed a substantially greater strain on the flooring than it was designed for. Whether additional factors contributed to the accident remains to be determined, but the excessive number of individuals allowed into the unit by the party promoters cannot be overlooked as a contributing cause of the accident.
“The Collier Companies management has focused on securing the area, stabilizing the structure and re-establishing services to our residents. We are exploring options to provide our residents with amenities unavailable as a result of the accident, and we will begin repairs as soon as safely possible. Throughout the months-long cleanup and reconstruction process, we will do everything possible to minimize further impact on our residents and their guests.”
Tallahassee, FL - October 24, 2012 - 3:26 pm - City officials released the floor plans to WCTV of the Seminole Grand apartment where a floor collapsed this weekend, injuring 55 people.
The floor collapsed in the Living Room of the residence and fell in to the Leasing Office of the building.
Pictures of those plans are attached.
The plans include structural notes such as "Pounds per square foot" or PSF.
The building code designated that on residential floors the "Live Loads" were not to exceed 40 pounds per square foot. The apartment measures 2100 square feet.
At this time, City officials state that the limit was exceeded.
Tallahassee, FL - October 24, 2012 - 12:17 pm - City officials say that the estimated 100 people who attended a party at Seminole Grand in the late hours of October 20th/early morning hours of October 21st were in violation of the building's fire code. The fire code is in place to determine how many people could safely exit the apartment in the case of a fire. It has nothing to do with how much weight the structure can bear.
The City is expected to release the apartment's floor plan to WCTV later today.
Stay with WCTV for more information.
Tallahassee, FL - October 23, 2012 - City officials will not be determining the cause of the collapse. City of Tallahassee says once they found that the building was up to code, investigation into the incident comes under the control of the Seminole Grand apartment complex.
Tallahassee, FL - As the dust settles from an apartment complex floor collapse, the question of "what exactly happened," still remains.
Multiple witnesses say that there were more than 100 people at this apartment party Sunday morning when the floor gave out. With no official cause released just yet, we went looking for some answers as to why it happened.
Our cameras were there when the floor gave out from underneath the feet of more than 100 party goers Sunday morning.
Witnesses say that even though the party was packed "shoulder to shoulder" there wasn't anything to indicate the floor would give out, even though The Seminole Grand does state in it's lease "Landlord requires that no more than 10 persons be allowed in the Unit at any one time.
Vertina Hernandez, Partygoer, stated, "Usually when there's a party or something everyone's dancing and moving around, everyone was like standing still, just standing still, they weren't even moving and floor just went out."
The City of Tallahassee looked into whether the building which was built in 1995 was up to code. The answer? It was.
Michelle Bono, City of Tallahassee, says, "the plans showed that this would be a four bedroom apartment, our inspections all showed that it was built according to code, so in terms of the city's review process, it was built as it was intended to be built."
So who's at fault? That has yet to be determined. But the lease states that if the terms are violated, the damage costs are the residents responsibility
Even though the Seminole Grand is not allowing our cameras on the property, it is a private residence, the Community Manager spoke with me off-camera. He said it's just too dangerous for us to see inside, and the CEO of the apartment's parent company Collier Companies reiterated that same statement over the phone.
There is no information on that time as to pending litigation.
Tallahassee, FL - The cleanup is underway at the site of a 2nd story floor collapse at an apartment
The Sunday morning incident injured 55 people and knocked out cable and internet to the complex
This is as close as they're letting us get to the Seminole Grand apartments. Security blocked off the entrance to the leasing office and the apartment above, which is where the floor gave way underneath a party what witnesses say was more than 100 people.
I did speak with the community manager Leonard Edmond. He said beyond the statement they supplied to residents Sunday evening, a statement you can read at wctv.tv, there's not much else to say.
Edmond gave me an update as far as some of the utilities. He said they had the internet turned back on by Sunday evening. The community manager also said that this is the only apartment like this in the complex, a four room penthouse style located above the office.
Edmond did say that he's never seen floor structural problems aside from leaks here and there, but nothing close to this. He says it was a unique situation, just a mass amount of people in a small area.
They didn't allow us to see inside, but Edmond said it's exactly what you think it would be in there, debris on the ground and a hole in the roof, but just too dangerous to let us in. One of the questions raised in all this; was the building up to code?
Tallahassee, FL - City officials are now looking into just how the second floor of a Tallahassee apartment complex collapsed...injuring dozens of people.
They released this statement to their residents:
In it they say: "We are very grateful that there was no life threatening injuries. Our immediate goals are to restore service to you as soon as possible."
Damage is estimated at $250,000.
City inspectors are on scene right now and a spokesperson tells WCTV they plan to release more information this afternoon.
We'll have an update tonight on WCTV Eyewitness News.
Tallahassee, FL - October 21, 2012 - "I turned my head for a second and the ground started shaking. I turned my head again and the floor was gone, people were gone, people were just falling."
Calman Stewart talked with us in between searching through the bushes for lost items at the Seminole Grand apartments. The same bushes he had to jump from two stories into less than 24 hours earlier. It was the only way he thought he could escape a terrifying floor collapse at a party.
"You heard people screaming and crying and yelling, the floor just kept caving in more and more so at that point in time people were just trying to get out for their lives," said Stewart.
Stewart is one of 55 people who firefighters say got hurt.
Vertina Hernandez was friends with one of the people throwing the party and described the scene outside after the collapse.
"I just saw people limping, people being on stretchers. A lot of people got hurt," Hernandez said.
Fred Jiles wasn't lucky enough to escape out of a window. He was one of the dozens who fell through the floor.
"I was free falling for like a good two seconds before I hit the first floor. And then bricks and stuff were falling down. That's how I got the lump on my head, the cut. I got a cut on the inside of my lip so deep I can't even eat.
"An actual whole floor, for it to collapse and everyone fall through, I don't think that should've happened," said Jiles. The lump on his forehead was still very visible.
The four room apartment was located above the leasing center and clubhouse. The office was closed Sunday as restorations began. No non-employees were allowed inside.
Tallahassee, FL - October 21, 2012- Tallahasse Fire Department updated the injury numbers to 55 on Sunday afternoon.
Lt. Mike Bellamy said that none of the injuries were life threatening, but because of the amount of people injured, buses were used to transport victims to the hospital.
Residents at the party described a horrific scene of the floor opening up and seeing people just fall through.
Spokespeople for the Seminole Grand Apartments said that they cannot make an official comment until they release a statement to their residents.
Tallahassee, Florida - October 21, 2012 - About 45 people were hurt this morning when the second floor of a penthouse at Seminole Grand Apartments collapsed during a party.
The Tallahassee Fire Department says about 100 people were at a party at Seminole Grand Apartments. That party was in a two story penthouse portion of the complex.
Around 1:20 this morning the second floor of the penthouse collapsed. Tallahassee Police on scene say all the injuries were minor.
The Tallahassee Fire Department estimates structural damages to be $250,000.