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Little Evidence Left To Determine Cause of Collapse With AM-Roof Collapses, Bjt

July 9, 1988

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ City officials said Friday that a lack of evidence may keep investigators from ever determining the cause of a tragic department store roof collapse.

Feliz Munoz, a Brownsville building official, said the investigation will be difficult ″because the building is completely demolished ... and we have practically no evidence there.″

The roof of the three-story building collapsed during a torrential rainstorm, and the cave-in took both interior floors with it, leaving a massive pile of rubble and little else, officials said.

There may not be much more evidence in city archives.

Munoz said the city building department transferred its documents to a storage room at the airport a few years ago, but that room was flooded earlier and the documents destroyed.

Another building official, Tony Yzaguirre, said that although he wasn’t a city employee when the structure was rebuilt, ″I’m sure it was inspected. It’s a normal procedure.″

Yzaguirre said inspectors check buildings only when they are first constructed and the only periodic inspections come from the fire department, which makes sure there are enough fire exits and that they open.

A spokeswoman in the tax office, Iliana Ramirez, said the land and store, including inventory, were worth $282,838 when appraised last year. She said the building was valued at $210,928 and the property was valued at $71,910.

Frutoso Gomez, an official with the Cameron County Appraisal District, said Friday the building was once called the Miller Hotel and that it had been damaged in 1967 and rebuilt in 1968.

He didn’t know what the damage had been, or if owner Bernard Levin was the owner who had it rebuilt. His records only went back to 1982, he said.

Hurricane Beulah hit in 1967, dumping 10 to 20 inches of rain over most of South Texas.

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