UPDATE: Architects say Plaza Towers, Briarwood had structural problems before tornado
MOORE, Okla. – After surveying the damage following the May 20 tornado in Moore, local architects are supporting a proposed law that would help municipalities statewide build safer schools.
According to OU’s Dr. Chris Ramsmeyer, it’s possible that many of the fundamental principles of engineering were ignored in the planning and construction phase of Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools.
Watching the new Plaza Towers grow from the ground up is bittersweet for Danni Legg.
She lost her son, Christopher, in the rubble of what Plaza Towers Elementary used to be.
Legg says, “I don’t honestly have faith in the structures that are being built currently.”
In the seven months following the May tornado, she’s heard from engineers and legislators who say her son’s school could have been built stronger.
John Joyce, with Engineering Solutions, found himself in the rubble following the tornado.
He was surveying the walls at Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementaries.
Joyce says, “There were definitely some things that you could kind of look at and say, ‘I can’t believe they built it this way.”
His main concern was the way concrete block walls were not properly reinforced.
Joyce says he and his colleagues would be willing to do inspections for schools statewide for free to make sure the same mistakes aren’t being made.
However, if something were to happen to the structure after his advice was given, he’d be liable.
“They may not have needed a full blown FEMA shelter to save those kids,” says Joyce. “Maybe they just needed it a little bit better than what it was.”
Oklahoma State Rep. Richard Morrissette has proposed a ‘Good Samaritan Bill’ that will allow engineers, like Joyce, to do school inspections at no cost, without the fear of liability.
“It’s amazing to some extent that the building withstood as much wind in prior years that it had,” says Morrissette. “But it was structurally deficient from the beginning.”
It all sounds like a great idea to Danni Legg.
She says it’s a small price to pay to prevent more innocent lives being lost.
Legg says, “Allow them to go into a building to learn everything they could possibly learn and feel safe.”
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