ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The constant crumbling of brick and bustle along the sidewalk has been normal in Downtown Abilene as the old Abilene Reporter News building has been demolished over the past two months, but a loud bang around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday caused shoppers and business owners to wonder what went wrong.
Hailey Garthwaite, Betty & June sales associate, shared that the sound that emitted from the rumble could have been mistaken for something far more severe.
“If I didn’t know that the demo was happening, I probably would have thought that a bomb went off,” said Garthwaite.
For Michaela Brandon, Golden Girls Day Spa owner, this incident made quite a scene.
“There was a huge cloud of dust. You couldn’t see it for a few seconds. It was kind of scary. You didn’t know what was going on but you knew it wasn’t good,” Brandon recalled.
The final standing walls of the building spilled into North 2nd Street when a support beam backfired, sending bricks and debris towards pedestrians and vehicles on the opposite sidewalk, according to Cande Flores, Abilene Fire Chief.
“As they were starting to tear the far east corner out, they were holding tension on one of the major beams. It either slipped or that tension just released another way and that’s what blew it back to the north and that’s what caused this wall to collapse,” Flores explained.
Though unfortunate, Flores is thankful no injures or major damage occurred during the collapse. A fact he thanks the demolition crew for, as proper safety precautions were in place.
“I purely think this was just something that they didn’t anticipate and I don’t think it was neglect at all,” Flores said.
Trey Yarbrough, an company owner, said the safety of those around the area was his first concern, followed by a push to get the road cleared and remaining walls torn down as quickly as possible.
“The outside of this building was a lot less strong than we initially thought and hats off to the city to go ahead and get this building torn down. It appears it would have been a problem in the future anyhow,” Yarbrough explained.
While some cars that were parked along North 2nd Street sustained minor damage from the debris, all were reported as drive-able and no pedestrians were injured, something people feared when the collapse first happened.
“There was several reports, people thought there was a possible explosion. Somebody said they thought an asteroid hit the street and so, I think, really nobody knew what was going on until they let the dust settle,” Flores shared.
The demolition crew worked in tandem with city officials, APD and AFD to get the road clear. Pine Street and North 2nd Street are open and ready for transport as of Wednesday night.