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Rooftop Parking Area Collapses At Supermarket; 16 Injured

April 24, 1988

BURNABY, British Columbia (AP) _ A rooftop parking area collapsed Saturday during the grand opening of a grocery store, dropping automobiles and blocks of concrete onto store displays and injuring 21 people, police said.

It was not immediately known how many people were in the Save-on-Foods store when the parking area, holding about 22 autos, collapsed, but Constable Lloyd Wall of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Burnaby said estimates ran as high as 900. Many were elderly people being given a preview tour.

Three of the injured were admitted to hospitals, with one in serious condition.

Police used cranes to remove huge blocks of concrete and cars that fell about 40 feet from the parking area to the floor of the store, in the Metrotown shopping center, Mounted Police Constable Dave Muir said.

It took several hours for searchers, who used police dogs, to get through the rubble. Officials believed everyone was accounted for, Wall said.

″We’re being optimistic there won’t be any deaths,″ said Mounted Police Sgt. Gary Schauer. ″But we’re still going through the rubble.″

Some cars were piled on each other on the supermarket floor amid soda and produce displays, while above, other autos teetered on the edge of a hole about half the size of a football field.

″I heard a crack and I looked up and saw the center beam wobble and saw the floor from the parking garage come down so I immediately told people to get outside,″ said one witness, George Sanderson.

″As soon as the first crack came (in the beam), they started getting people out,″ Heppell said.

The collapse was preceded by the sound of a buckling beam and spray from a bursting water pipe, officials said. There were three warnings over the store’s loudspeaker system to clear the area.

Clarence Heppell, president of Overwaitea Foods, which operates the store chain, said a structural failure caused the cave-in.

Eight people were taken to a hospital by ambulance, and others went to emergency wards on their own.

″The staff was well-organized but we had some problems with the customers,″ said meatcutter John Hill, 38. ″They didn’t appear to be trying to move too fast.

″They were still checking out our prices. It’s amazing how some people react.″

Free-lance photographer Robert Klein, who was taking pictures of the preview event, said many thought it was a joke that a water pipe should burst in a brand new supermarket.

″Then I could see that the roof was bent and old this older man that the roof was going to go.

″I’d just turned my back for one second and down it came. There was suddenly a tremendous gust of wind at my back as I ran,″ he said. ″Suddenly everybody was in shock. Everybody was stunned. And some of the people were really freaked out.″

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