Cincinnati casino collapsed like 'V,' not 'pancake'

CINCINNATI - Several 911 calls started flooding Hamilton County dispatch just before 8 a.m. Friday.

"Hello, hello... is anyone there? We have an accident at the casino the new casino in Cincinnati. There's about 20 guys that just fell through the fourth floor. You gotta get down here as quick as possible."

When the calls came in Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard Braun, said they were at the former Broadway Commons site at Reading Road, Broadway and Court streets, within seconds.

That kind of response results from massive amounts of training for situations just like Friday's.

"You flip the switch and you go to work," said District Chief Thomas Lakamp, who leads the Cincinnati Fire Department's Special Operations Command.

First responders to the scene confirmed the structural collapse—a 60' x 60' bay within the Horseshoe Casino facility had plummeted to the ground—workers in tow. At that time, however, it was also determined that none of the victims were entrapped, said District Fire Chief Gregory A. Potter.

Braun rushed to the scene, where more than half the city's emergency vehicles quickly responded to. But crews were faced with a challenge.

"It was very hard for us to access because of going back in it was very muddy and wet, so our crews had to carry everything back to the scene," said Braun.

But that didn't stop their speed and diligence to get the patients to safety and transported to the hospital.

"They would package the patient and get them out. It was very rewarding for me to see...I knew we had a great department—it just shows what training and working together accomplishes when they have to," said Braun of the teamwork he saw on the scene.

Knowing how to respond comes with knowing what they're responding to.

"There was a 'V' collapse where the two sides 'V' down and then there was also in the back portion a pancake collapse which is just like a stack of pancakes—where you stack the floors up. Very similar to the World Trade Center collapse," said Lakamp.

Friday's victims rode the collapse as it fell.

"Normally, had they been underneath, you would've seen more compression injuries, the more crushing injuries. Today, you had more just bumps, bruises, broken bones," said Lakamp.

Specialized training helped the Special Operations Command on the scene of the collapse.

"In today's world, the department has to be more global in the way we think, the way we act. We're not just going to house fires, we have to be ready for any kind of incident to happen," said Braun.

That's why in May, the fire department created the special command—incorporating all skills—collapse training, as well as bomb squad and Hazmat.

"They go through five separate sets of training on the different hazards. Today that training was utilized."

Custody of the scene was transferred to OSHA and the Cincinnati Building Department, later on Friday morning. They will investigate the incident, as will Rock Ohio Caesars Construction Team.

Further construction will take a back seat to the investigation for the time being.

"At this time the worksite is closed, and work will not resume until the construction team and OSHA determine that it is safe to do so," said Steve Rosenthal, Rock Gaming LLC.

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