Two people were hurt, including a woman who was critically injured when the parapet of an Allston restaurant collapsed Sunday afternoon, trapping her under blocks of concrete for several minutes while rescuers struggled to free her.
The woman was walking outside the entrance of the Common Ground restaurant at 85 Harvard Ave. with a group of friends when she was struck by the heavy debris. Her friends, and at least one neighbor, worked frantically to move the broken concrete that had dropped from the roofline of the single-story building. A second person suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said firefighter Marc Sanders, a spokesman for the fire department, but he had no further details.
Jonathan Aguirre, 19, had just cracked open the window of his second-floor apartment across the street from the restaurant Sunday afternoon when he saw the concrete blocks fall and hit the woman. He instinctively ran down his apartment building’s stairs and rushed across the street, he said.
“She was with a group of friends about to cross the street, and she was the last to go when, BAM,” Aguirre said as he punched his fist into his other hand. “It was like a truck toppled over. My building began to shake.”
Boston EMS Deputy Superintendent Susan Schiller said a man who rode in the ambulance with the woman declined medical treatment.
Officials believe the man and woman know each other, she said.
Crews safely evacuated six staff members and customers through the rear of the building, Boston Deputy fire chief Stephen McNeil told reporters at the scene.
Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner Buddy Christopher said at the scene Sunday night that inspectors had deemed the building safe for the night and structural engineering officials would come back Monday to assess the building.
Fire crews are expected to remain at the scene throughout the night out of concern that more of the parapet will fall, McNeil said. The collapse was reported shortly before 3 p.m.
Because of the nature of the damage, crews extended the work site from 75 Harvard Ave. through 85 Harvard Ave., McNeil said.
“When these things fall... it’s like a domino effect where it all comes down,” McNeil said. “Right now, there’s a significant danger of secondary collapse.”
After he rushed to the woman’s side, Aguirre said, several minutes passed before he and her friends could heave the blocks off her body.
“It took like three or four of us to move each of those blocks, because they were made of concrete,” said Aguirre, who used to work in construction.
She had blood on her head and neck, he said.
“She wasn’t responding either,” he said. “Her friends were trying CPR and were calling her name but she didn’t move. Not a sound out of her.”
Police, fire crews, and EMS responded shortly to the scene, said Aguirre, and the woman was put in the back of an ambulance. He added that a man with a bloodied arm also left in the ambulance.
After the disaster, rubble covered the sidewalk in front of the building as dozens of first responders, including a fire department ladder truck, worked at the scene.
A square sign on the side of the building fell on top of the chunks of facade, which had torn free from the roofline of the building.
The collapse caused about $500,000 in damages, according to a fire department Twitter post.
A technical rescue team was dispatched to the scene, and rescuers used a thermal imager to determine that no one was trapped underneath the debris, said Sanders in a phone interview.
The collapse, which occurred on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Boston, when there was a lot of foot traffic, could have been much worse, McNeil said.
“It’s amazing that there weren’t more injuries given what occurred,” he said.
When the concrete fell, there was no warning, said Bob O’Guin, the owner of Common Ground, who was working in the rear of the restaurant.
“I heard what I thought to be an earthquake,” O’Guin said. “The whole building felt like it was shaking.”
Common Ground has been in the building for about 10 years, he said.
From the intensity of the vibration, he said that he knew the damage would be bad but he was shocked once he saw part of the building on the ground, he said.
“We’re down for now. The crews are telling it could be as much as six months before we get the go ahead to open again,” said O’Guin. “Sure, there’s insurance but that’s a long time to wait.”
Tech Rescue response to 85 Harvard Ave. Brighton at approx. 2:56 PM for a building collapse. This is a 1 story commercial building that the front facade has collapsed on to the sidewalk. 2 injuries confirmed by @BOSTON_EMS . All occupants safely evacuated. @bostonpolice on scene. pic.twitter.com/RmH8Y8QHnW— Boston Fire Dept. (@BostonFire) November 4, 2018
Deputy McNeil briefs the media at 75-85 Harvard Ave. 2 civilians injured & transported by @BOSTON_EMS . Approx. $500,000 in damages. BFD & @bostonpolice will remain on scene while @ISDBoston determines the structural integrity of the buildings. pic.twitter.com/7yUEOWZjiO— Boston Fire Dept. (@BostonFire) November 4, 2018