By Jim Williams
CHICAGO (CBS) — A porch collapsed and left half a dozen people injured in the South Austin neighborhood this week, and on Wednesday, we wanted to know how effective new city building codes are at preventing such accidents.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams went to the building Wednesday, and also found out why the city says porch violations have gone down in recent years. It is related to a tragic and infamous incident that happened back in 2003.
Auto mechanic Oobay Williams was at work at the time of the porch collapse, and he was alarmed by the sound across the alley.
“I’m over there fixing the cars and I hear the kids screaming,” he said.
The kids were screaming in the back of the building at 18 S. Lavergne Ave. on Tuesday afternoon. They ended up on the ground after the porch they were on collapsed.
When asked how badly the victims appeared to be hurt, mechanic Williams said, “They couldn’t move, really.”
According to the City’s Buildings Department, the second-floor porch sheared away from the support stringers and dropped to the first-floor landing. Altogether, six people were hurt… including the two children. Four were taken to the hospital.
It was a frightening reminder of what happened in Lincoln Park 18 years ago.
On June 29, 2003, a porch structure collapsed during a party in the back of the apartment building at 713 W. Wrightwood Ave. A total of 13 people were killed and nearly 60 were injured – many of them young adults.
As a result, the city imposed tougher building codes and began many more porch inspections.
In 2006, inspectors found 6,670 porch violations throughout Chicago. But in 2019, violations dropped to 2,127.
Buildings Department spokeswoman Mimi Simon said after the new codes went to effect and inspectors issued more citations, porches were rehabbed or rebuilt in greater numbers – and violations dropped.
Back at the building on Lavergne Avenue, city records show the last inspection was four years ago. Inspectors found five violations – including broken windows – but cited no porch problems.
After that frightening scene in South Austin on Tuesday, doctors were able to stabilize the conditions of the victims.
“I just hope and pray they’re all right, because I’ve got kids too – so you know what I’m saying,” mechanic Williams said.
We reached out the owner of the Lavergne Avenue building. He had no comment, but said he would work with the city to find out how this happened.