By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
A worker was trapped underneath concrete rubble and feared dead after a balcony collapsed on top of him Friday at an oceanfront condominium complex in Sea Isle City.
As darkness fell, emergency workers were still trying to recover the worker from the seventh-floor balcony at the south tower of the Spinnaker condos at 3700 Boardwalk.
Authorities declined to say whether the worker was dead, but noted that the search had entered the recovery phase instead of a rescue effort.
The accident occurred around 2:20 p.m. when a concrete balcony on the eighth floor collapsed onto a balcony on the seventh floor where the worker was standing, authorities said.
Two other workers were on the balcony on the eighth floor when it fell onto the one below it. The two other workers suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene, according to authorities.
Capt. Matt Johnson, of the Cape May County Urban Search and Rescue Team, said emergency crews planned to use a crane to begin the arduous process of removing the collapsed balcony off the worker.
“We are going to take our time with this. There is a lot of mathematics involved. We have engineers looking at the building right now, and we determined a plan of action. We’ll go in, we’ll do some stabilization for the building and then we’ll bring a crane to remove the slab off the top of the victim,” Johnson told reporters during a news briefing at around 6 p.m.
The balconies weigh an estimated 11,000 to 15,000 pounds each, Johnson said.
Johnson and Sea Isle City Police Department spokesman Lt. James McQuillen did not know the cause of the collapse. Accident investigators were expected to remain at the scene throughout Friday night and into Saturday.
McQuillen could not say for sure what type of work was being done on the balconies during the accident, but thought it might be painting. The workers were believed to be employees of a private company, but authorities did not immediately release any names.
As a precaution, the south tower of the Spinnaker condominiums was evacuated. Only about five families were inside the building at the time. Authorities said the building itself appears to be safe.
The Spinnaker condominiums were built in the early 1970s and include twin north and south towers nine stories tall overlooking the ocean.
Each condo has a balcony facing the ocean, while most of the three-bedroom units also have a larger balcony on the side of the building, according to a history of the Spinnaker’s construction posted online.
It was one of the side balconies that collapsed on the eighth floor.
Emergency crews from multiple municipalities responded to the accident. They included first responders from Sea Isle, Ocean City, Strathmere and Marmora.