MADRID – A scaffolding collapse that killed one construction worker and left 11 others injured as they were refurbishing Madrid’s iconic luxury Ritz hotel was due to a weight overload on the sixth floor which caused the metal structure to buckle and come crashing down, authorities and witnesses said Wednesday.
The accident resulted in the death of a 42-year-old builder of African origin, while two of the injured, both aged 41-years-old, were in serious condition in two of Madrid’s leading hospitals, authorities said.
“Suddenly, everything started to collapse downward,” construction worker Jorge de los Santos from the Dominican Republic told EFE. “I was just able to come out running.”
Daniel Muñoz, head of the construction company Kenfri which was sub-contracted to carry out work on the Ritz, told EFE that 18 of his workers had been inside the building at the time of the accident.
He said that while most were able to come out running, concerns grew when some did not emerge from the dust and rubble, until finally they saw one come out aided by another.
“We were relieved to see him come out alive, but saddened and troubled because of the death of another person,” Muñoz said. “It is always terrible when there is an accident and even worse when someone dies.”
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, which operates the 108-year-old establishment, closed the Ritz on Feb. 28 to begin a 99-million-euro ($114.8-million) renovation.
“The City Council gave the hotel a license to refurbish the interior of the building in January,” City Councilor Jose Manuel Calvo said. “The owners will be forced to make the site of the accident safe within three to five days, including removing rubble and any scaffolding or structural elements that remain unsafe and unstable.”
Calvo confirmed the council would take on the safe removal of debris if the owners failed to take action following the executive order.
A large group of workers had built up outside the hotel on Wednesday morning, waiting for the police to give an all-clear so they could go in to collect tools they had left in lockers.
Mandarin Oriental and the Saudi Arabian group Olayan had acquired the property for 120.7 million euros and in 2015 announced they would refurbish and considerably improve the hotel’s installations and services.