Company to Investigate Deadly Maryland Garage Collapse

One dead, one seriously injured in Bethesda mall garage

A contracting company in charge of renovating a garage that was the site of a deadly accident Thursday will conduct an investigation into the incident.

A 50,000-pound section of the Westfield Montgomery Mall's garage collapsed about 1:45 p.m., killing one construction worker with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Police identified the deceased as 57-year-old Carroll Dexter Wills of Prince Frederick.

Wills' daughter, Caroleann, told News4's Shomari Stone Friday that the family was in a "state of shock" at the death of her father, whom she described as "a character."

"He was always laughing, he always had encouraging words," Caroleann Wills said. "I really don't think my father would have wanted to go any other way. He died doing what he loved."

The mall's garage, near Macy's and the food court, was under renovation. Only construction workers were inside during the accident.

The second worker was trapped for more than four hours before being hospitalized with serious injuries. He gave News4's David Culver a thumbs-up as he was being transported.

Several other construction workers suffered minor injuries.

Emergency medical personnel from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore responded to the scene, as did as many as 100 other emergency responders.

Maryland's Go-Team, an advanced resuscitation team from Shock Trauma that can respond to seriously injured patients and those that face extrication that may last an hour or more, was called to the scene as well.

One woman who had parked close to the parking garage told News4's Tom Sherwood that she had gotten into her car and was driving away when she heard a "loud crash."

There was no structural damage to the mall. But one section of the mall was closed, and entrances near the parking garage were taped off. 

Westlake Drive and Democracy Boulevard is closed to traffic at this time.

The collapse happened on the first level of the multi-story garage, Segraves reported. There was no immediate information as to the cause of the crash.

The Westfield Montgomery Mall opened its doors in March 1968. It originally featured a Hecht’s, Garfinckel’s, Sears and 58 smaller shops. The mall, located on Democracy Boulevard near  I-270 and I-495, is the largest in the Bethesda area.

In 2007, The Montgomery County Planning Board approved plans to add 360,000 feet of retail space to the 1.2 million-square-foot mall.

There are plans underway to construct a 16-screen, 60,000 square foot ArcLight Cinema above the parking garage on the west side of the mall that was projected to open in spring 2014. Redevelopment plans also include a new and expanded dining terrace.

This renovation project closed the food court parking garage, which is expected to reopen in fall 2013.

Representatives with the Westfield Mall released the following statement Thursday evening:

"As has been reported, earlier today a construction-related accident occurred at Westfield Montgomery. The accident occurred in a parking deck that was closed for redevelopment. Unfortunately, the accident resulted in serious injuries to what is believed to be two victims, including one fatality. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the victims and their families.

Emergency responders continue to operate on site, Westfield is working closely with these authorities and is grateful for their rapid and comprehensive response. Responders and investigators are working in and around the closed and quarantined parking structure."

Mila Mimica, Mark Segraves, Tom Sherwood, David Culver, Shomari Stone and Joshua Axelrod contributed to this report.

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