Lâ��Ambiance Plaza 25 Years After the Disaster
Within hours of the disaster we were called in to find the victims of the L’Ambiance Plaza disaster with Ground Penetrating Radar, GPR. It doesn’t seem like that was twenty-five years ago, but it happened on April 23, 1887 when over 2 million pounds of concrete slabs came crashing down on twenty-eight construction workers that were killed and another twenty-two were injured some seriously in one of the worst industrial accidents in US history, and the worst in Connecticut’s.
The L’Ambiance Plaza was inBridgeport,Connecticutas soon as the accident happened construction workers from all over the area rushed to the scene of the disaster to help and rescue their fellow workers it was quickly established that twenty-eight of their fellows were trapped in the ruins. Hope was held out for these missing workers, but it quickly became apparent there was little or no hope for them because of the nature of the accident.
The plaza itself was a 16 story residential project at the corner ofWashington AvenueandColeman StreetinBridgeport,Connecticutwhose sudden collapse created one of the worst disasters inConnecticut’s history. In the accident the buildings partially erect frame collapsed completely raining 2 million pounds of concrete floor slabs down onto the workers.
It was determined after that the cause of the collapse was the placement of the floor slabs that resulted in cracking that led to a type of punch through failure. One school of thought about this disaster was preventable because it highlighted major problems with the technique called, lift slab construction. These findings led to a nationwide investigation of this building technique and prompted a moratorium on its use inConnecticut.
Rescue efforts took nearly a week before all the bodies were recovered from the wreckage that looked like a stack of cards. We arrived on the scene the following morning; set up our GPR equipment and within minutes started using it to sweep the ruins. It became apparent after a few minutes that our GPR rig wasn’t going to work because of the large amount of rebar in the cement floor slabs, so we gave up.
Later Federal investigators accused the contractor on the project of “sloppy construction practices” and imposed record fines on the contractor for these practices.
April 23, 2012marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the L’Ambiance Plaza disaster that is still remembered by the survivors and families who perished. It also has left a record of unanswered questions it also caused a number of labor laws to be written making construction projects a much safer place to work.