Firefighter killed in collapse at MU apartments

Lt. Bruce Britt killed in line of duty after walkway collapses Saturday morning

Columbia remembers fallen firefighter

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A Columbia firefighter was killed while responding to a walkway collapse Saturday morning at University Village apartments.

Lt. Bruce Britt died Saturday morning, according to the Columbia Fire Department. He was a 23-year veteran of the department.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin released the following statement Saturday:

"My heart is heavy this morning as my deepest condolences go to the family of the brave City of Columbia firefighter who was fatally injured in the line of duty helping keep the residents of University Village Apartments safe.

We are grateful that, due to the efforts of this firefighter and others, no residents were injured. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who assisted during this emergency."

Inspections are currently underway at the University of Missouri-owned apartments on Providence Road after an exterior walkway collapsed around 4:40 a.m.

Victor De Jesus lives mere inches from where the collapse began. He said he had been evacuated when a neighbor noticed cracks on the walls inside of his second-story apartment.

"And when he went outside there wasn't any balcony. What woke me up was the strong bangs on the door," said De Jesus.

During the evacuation, some second-floor residents had to climb down a ladder out of their windows. University officials said Saturday all 18 residents were accounted for and safe.

Residents told ABC 17 News they were being relocated Saturday because it could be hours before their apartments were cleared from inspection. An MU spokesperson said they will be relocated based on their specific situation. Some will stay at a local hotel while others remain in nearby campus residencies.

Paolo Laochankham lives in a neighboring building and said several international students live in the complex. Being away far away from home, he said students from foreign countries already feel a sense of insecurity. Now, that feeling has grown much stronger.

"This the first place, here in this country, this is the place that we believe is safe for us, and why we choose the University property," Lachankham said.

Saturday evening, ABC 17 News watched as some residents trekked back inside their apartments to retrieve belongings to last them for the next few days. Mahdieh Pootschi lives in the building and was told that she would be meeting with someone with the University to discuss where she will live next.

She said she refuses to live in the building again even if it undergoes the proper repairs.

"This isn't the first time something like this has happened," Pootschi said. "There was a gas leak some months ago. We e-mail (MU) to let them know about what's wrong with their building. They say 'We're trying to fix it,' but it never happens."

Work to reinforce the existing walkways at University Village was underway Saturday afternoon, with contractors removing tin awnings to inspect the concrete underneath. Those inspections led to several two-by-fours being installed underneath the walkways of four different buildings.

University Village houses international students, married students, graduate students and students over age 21. The complex was built in 1956.

Stay with ABC 17 News and for updates on this developing story.

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