“I’m walking back on Phillip’s Avenue and the postman who does the route around here, he turns to me and says, ‘Hey, the Copper Lounge is collapsing,’ I was like, no way… there’s no way. I walked down, I see this and went, ‘Oh my god. I couldn’t believe it’,” says Donald Nordlie, a volunteer helper in the building collapse.
The Copper Lounge came crumbling down Friday morning trapping two victims inside. While one 22-year-old woman, Emily Fodness, and her dog made it out alive and are said to be in good condition, the other, construction worker Ethan McMahon, couldn’t be saved in time.
Fire crews say that they are thankful and fortunate they were able to save that woman from the rubble but they say the damages go far beyond that as the building served as a home to a family of five.
What some people thought was just another day, turned out to be a somber and shocking one.
“It was just a normal day and then there was a loud bang and the whole building just started to kind of crumble down,” says Laura Sinkgraven who witnessed the building collapse.
City crews say there’s a lot of work to be done to clean up the mess left behind.
“Our traffic plan is going to remain in place through Monday. We are kind of in a holding pattern now until they can work out a deal with their contractor and their structural engineer,” says Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith.
The rest of the debris is up to the property owners to clean up, and power has been shut down to many surrounding businesses to ensure additional safety.
While all the crews are trained and prepared to handle emergency situations like this, Smith says this is one of the worst tragedies he’s dealt with in 16 years working as an emergency manager.
“This is definitely the most impactful structural collapse I’ve seen. I’ve been involved in four or five tornadoes across the state but nothing as large or significant as a building as this one,” says Smith.
Despite the mess it left behind and the emotional tragedy the community faces, residents believe they can get through this together.
“We’ll just be here to support the police officers, and the firemen and obviously the people connected to this tragedy and do whatever we can to help them in whatever way that we can,” says Nordlie.