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Roof collapse is close call

5 workers left seconds before Murray cave-in

SHARE Roof collapse is close call
Water covers the floor of Scenic Design in Murray after most of the roof collapsed. The business is expected to be closed for a month.

Water covers the floor of Scenic Design in Murray after most of the roof collapsed. The business is expected to be closed for a month.

Chuck Wing, Deseret Morning News

MURRAY — Gary Voorhees had just stepped out to make a phone call no more than 30 seconds earlier when he heard a loud crashing noise in the warehouse behind him.

At first he thought some shelves had fallen. He was shocked to look back and find an 8,000- to 9,000-square-foot portion of the roof had collapsed and fallen where he and three other workers had stood seconds earlier.

"We were very, very fortunate," Voorhees said.

Voorhees was working at Scenic Design, 5639 S. Riley Lane (200 West), Friday when the roof of the business collapsed shortly before 1 p.m. The building is divided into an office and a warehouse area. About three-quarters of the roof covering the warehouse collapsed, and the rest was expected to fall before long.

"It's huge," co-owner Linda Eastlick said of the damage and the losses. "We'll be out (of business) for a month. I'm pretty upset right now."

Investigators were blaming ice and snow Friday for the collapse. Even though there hasn't been measurable snowfall in the valley for at least a week, Murray Fire Capt. Jessie Valenzuela said the water gutters on the roof of the business were frozen and the melting snow had nowhere to go. With the constant freezing and thawing of water on the roof and the heavy pieces of equipment on top, Valenzuela said the water likely found a weak spot.

The roof was designed so that "if a few (beams) fail, everything fails," he said.

An hour after the initial collapse, wood beams and the framing of the roof could be heard creaking. The rest of the roof was slowly falling down, Valenzuela said.

Shortly before the roof caved in, Eastlick said there were five workers in the warehouse. Two of them went to lunch, two stepped outside on the loading dock for a break and the fifth went to make a phone call.

"We're so fortunate no one was in the back," she said. "That was a blessing. They would have been killed. I'm just so grateful they're OK."

Voorhees said that about an hour before the collapse he and other workers heard what sounded like a tool box hitting the roof, but they didn't think much of it. Other than that, there was no warning that the roof was about to fall, he said.

Scenic Design produces sets for movies, plays and professional photography studios. Eastlick said this is one of their busiest times of the year, and she had just returned from a trade show with $30,000 worth of merchandise.

Scenic Design has been at this location since September 2000. Other than an occasional small leak in the roof, Eastlick said, there was no indication of a real problem. She said her workers had even been keeping a close eye on how much snow was accumulating on the roof to prevent such an incident. Only 6 inches of snow were there when it collapsed, she said.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com