Four Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School chaperones escorting an eighth grade class on a field trip were injured, one of them critically, around 11 a.m. Thursday when a sign and several bricks detached from the top of a building on West Pike Street in Covington.
One person was buried under fallen bricks, said Covington Fire Chief Dan Mathew. Witnesses assisted that person until emergency personnel arrived at the 121 West Pike Street address. None of the students were injured in the collapse.
Three of the injured people were transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, according to Mathew. Another was transported to a Northern Kentucky hospital. In an email to parishioners, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Burlington asked for prayers for Valerie McNamara, 41, of Hebron who was critically injured in the incident.
The email said each of the injured were parents of students at the school and the three unnamed victims were expected to be released from medical care and back home by Friday. A separate email sent by the school to parents said the students were in an eighth-grade class.
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The group of IHM students, which numbered in the twenties, was on the block and witnessed the partial collapse, according to Mathew and Covington City Manager Larry Klein.
Work was being done on the roof of the building, Mathew said, although he doesn't know if that was a cause. The address is one of two business locations for Steffen's Rental. Klein estimated the building is 100 years old.
City officials said there was nothing the city could have done to prevent the collapse. The city doesn’t employ structural engineers, Mathew said. Firefighters inspect buildings annually for general fire hazards, such as whether fire extinguishers are up to date and whether the fire exits are adequate.
“That’s the nature of having buildings that are old,” Mathew said. “There’s always that potential. We cannot force people to do structural evaluations on buildings unless there are complaints.”
An official with the Covington Fire Department confirmed Thursday night that a structural engineer, who inspected the building, said it was "structurally unsafe" and that it needed a thorough evaluation to determine what repairs it needed.
Until then, the 100 block of Pike Street between Washington and Russell streets would be closed, the official said.
“We’re thinking of the kids and the parents and are hoping they’re all OK,” Klein said. “It had to be a traumatic experience for the kids. The building is secure now. Nobody is going in or near the building.”