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Downtown Covington Wall Collapses, Injures 4 on School Field Trip

Four people were injured when part of a downtown Covington building collapsed late Thursday morning.

At around 11:30 a.m., while roofing contractors were working on top of Steffen's Rental at 121 West Pike Street, the top part of the building's center came crashing down to the sidewalk below, taking the longtime business's sign with it. At the exact same time, participants in a field trip from a local school were walking past, and four adults suffered injuries when debris fell on them.

Three adults were taken to UC Medical Center in Cincinnati and one was transported to St. Elizabeth in Covington. The extent of their injuries was not known.

Regina Watts, who works nearby at the Point, witnessed some of the injured emerge from the rubble after hearing the facade collapse. "That's part of what we do, we're about helping people and our instincts are to jump out and help," Watts said. 

The adults were chaperoning students from Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Burlington, and the field trip was to Parish Kitchen, where homeless people eat. The students were taken to a secure location after the wall collapse, City Manager Larry Klein said.

Covington Fire Chief Dan Mathew did not immediately have details on the extent of the adults' injuries. "When we arrived we found four injured adults, a few under the rubble," Mathew said. "They were all conscious when we transported them."

The roofers who were on top of the building when the facade collapsed remained on the scene where they were interviewed by fire investigators. Pat Maschlino, one of the contractors, spoke briefly with the news media before being called away by the investigator. He did not offer further comment after stating that nothing out of the ordinary had taken place during the contractors' work on the building, and that the wall collapsed when they removed a piece of tar paper. "We cut the paper and the wall just let loose," he said. A whole new roof was being installed, he said. 

Upon inspection, the building was deemed "structurally unsafe for occupation", according to a news release from the the Covington Fire Department, which also reported that the owner is consulting with an engineering firm to consider next steps, and that West Pike between Washington and Russell Streets will remain closed until the evaluation is complete.

WATCH RCN'S LIVE COVERAGE OF THE BUILDING COLLAPSE

Steffen representatives were not immediately available for comment, but the business can trace its roots to the late 1800s when the Steffen family operated a dairy, and then a flooring company, and then a rental service before moving to its current location on Pike Street in the 1960s. In 2014, The River City News profiled the company as the leadership changed hands to a new generation of Steffens. For a long time, it was known as Steffen's Tool Crib but is now known as Steffen's Rental, and it is known for renting out heavy machinery and smaller devices, too, like popcorn machines for parties. Steffen's is actively involved in downtown Covington events and organizations. 

Part of Steffen's property will become part of the massive Duveneck Square development on the adjacent parking lot which will include residential units and commercial spaces.

Traffic on Pike Street was shut down so that the incident could be looked into.

This story will be updated when more information is known.

Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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