Searchers remove 4th body from garage-collapse rubble

The body of a fourth person killed in the collapse of a garage under construction was finally removed Thursday.

10/18/2012 1:21 PM

10/19/2012 6:49 AM

It took eight days.

The Budhoo family nightmare began on a typical South Florida afternoon, Oct. 10. News spread that a section of an under construction parking garage at Miami-Dade College’s west campus in Doral had collapsed, levels of concrete crashing down on more levels of concrete like a pancake.

They knew Robert Budhoo, father of three, had left their Tamarac home earlier in the day to work on the garage as an electrician with Stryker Electric. A television crew appeared at their home. And Budhoo, 53, wasn’t answering his cell phone.

Budhoo’s wife, Laurel, told WSVN-Fox 7, “I believe in miracles.”

They made their way to the construction site, hoping to see or hear any reason to believe he was still alive. One body was removed. Another, trapped inside the cab of a truck, was freed during the night when firefighters amputated him below the knees and rushed him to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he later died.

Still, no Budhoo.

By the end of the first 24 hours, three people had been declared dead and close to 10 more were hurt. All worked for contractors or subcontractors on the job. Budhoo’s family waited.

They stayed at the scene. They gave interviews to reporters and shared pictures. They saw the official description of the mission change from rescue to recovery.

“He’s there,” daughter Tasha Bagwandeen said a day after the collapse. “He needs somebody to rescue him.”

Days later, when they felt rescuers weren’t acting with enough urgency, they staged a protest, with more than 60 family members holding hand-made signs and yelling a police officers and fire officials.

A Doral police officer said they were trying to create pockets to feed in a camera to see deeper in the pile.

He said workers had to move deliberately because the collapsed building remained unstable and workers had felt the neighboring structure shift.

One of Budhoo’s five young grandchildren asked why Poppa wouldn’t come home.

On Monday, authorities said they had located Budhoo.

But the news came with it’s own dark lining.

“Due to the instability of the collapsed rubble, along with serious safety concerns for the workers on site, it appears the physical removal of the body may take additional days,” Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Roy Rutland said.

Family members said they believed there had been confusion about where Budhoo was located.

The day of the construction accident, one of Budhoo’s co-workers told the family and the rescue team that he last saw the missing man on the west side of the building.

But family members said that night cadaver dogs identified and focused on a different spot that eventually turned out to be wrong.

“The whole thing is just a mess,” niece Judith Budhoo said.

On Thursday, a van from the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office pulled up. It received a body, finally found and believed to be Budhoo, although testing was still needed to confirm the identity.

Many questions remained. Why did the garage collapse? Who is at fault? Could it have been prevented?

On Thursday, there were no miracles, only mourning. Family members said they were relieved to have Robert Budhoo out and glad no rescue workers were hurt in the process.

“We can’t go back, and we can’t change it now,” another Budhoo niece, Britney, said. “Instead of being angry, we’re just grieving. Being angry won’t bring my uncle back.”

Miami Herald writer Anna Edgerton and Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS  4 contributed to this report.

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