Report raises new question about porch collapse
June 28, 2007 (WLS) -- Four years ago a porch gave way during a party in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood killing 13 people. A report commissioned by city officials one month after the tragedy raises questions about the city's position that people jumping on the porch caused the deadly collapse. That report was just released to lawyers for the victim's families.
An architect hired by the city concluded that the porch was not constructed properly.
The city commissioned an outside report on the porch collapse shortly after it happened. It has had that report since late July of 2003. It did not make the report public, though many of the findings were generally known. But the city also did not turn the report over -- until now -- to attorneys for victims of the porch collapse, even though they had asked the city to produce everything it had on the tragedy.
Thirteen died in the collapse of the porch June 29, 2003. Within days it was learned that the porch was built without a permit, was bigger than code allows and was poorly constructed, even though city inspectors had looked at it. Much of that was confirmed in a preliminary report prepared for the city by architecture professor Elliott Dudnik. Even though the Law department had Dudnik's report within a month of the porch collapse, lawyers for the victims say the city didn't acknowledge it had the report until it turned it over this week.
"It was right in the corporation counsel's office for four years. There is no basis or justification I can think of for not turning this document over," said Terry Ekl, attorney for porch collapse victim.
Dudnik's report says the porch's joist hangers weren't properly installed, lag screws used to attach the porch to the building were too short. It concludes there was a pattern of improper construction. Code requires the porch to support 100 pounds per square foot, but Dudnik found that "neither the floor joists supporting the deck nor the perimeter beams were capable of supporting such a design load."
A year-and-a-half after it had Dudnik's preliminary findings, the city filed a legal complaint against John Koranda, a party host, suggesting that he and others were intentionally rocking the porch back and forth, and that that contributed to the collapse.
"Everybody has to take responsibility in this world, in life. No one wants to take responsibility," said Mayor Richard Daley in February 2005.
The Mayor's remarks and the city's action infuriated the Korandas. John Koranda's older brother Rob was one of the 13 who died. Koranda and others there that night insist there was no horseplay on the porch. And his attorney says the Dudnik report makes clear the real culprit was shoddy construction.
"The number of people or anybody jumping on the porch had absolutely nothing to do with the collapse and the City of Chicago knew that when they filed that suit against John Koranda," said Ekl.
The city acknowledged early on that there was shoddy construction, but later said that the actions of people on the porch that night contributed to what happened. That is very much in dispute.
Ekl and attorneys representing other victims sued the city four years ago contending part of the responsibility for what happened rested with city inspectors who claimed to have inspected the porch but did nothing about what should have been clearly evident problems.
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