Realty Tower ‘Structurally Unsafe’; International Towers Must Be Evacuated

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Realty Tower “remains structurally unsafe,” and the city fire chief notified the management of the building next to it to evacuate that building.

An explosion at Realty Tower on May 28 killed one man, injured several others and displaced the residents of the buildings’s 23 apartments.

“Unfortunately, this is not the result we anticipated, however the public safety and well-being of our residents is our top priority,” a news release from Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s office stated Monday. “We are actively working with the appropriate agencies and organizations to find solutions for the residents as quickly as possible.”

Brown is expected to deliver an update at 11 a.m. Tuesday. A message recorded for callers to International Towers says residents don’t have to evacuate Tuesday and that building management has a meeting scheduled Tuesday morning with city officials to learn details of the evacuation order.

The determination, which was issued to the city Monday, was made after a structural assessment by Barber & Hoffman Inc.

That structural engineering company was contracted by the city to perform a structural assessment of Realty Tower.

International Towers, right, sits next to Realty Tower, which was damaged by an explosion May 28. (File photo)

International Towers is an income-based apartment building for people who are age 62 and older or who have a disability. It’s privately owned.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation into the cause of the explosion, and a preliminary report is expected late this month. That investigation has been hampered though because investigators weren’t able to enter the building due to safety concerns.

NTSB’s early investigation, which officials stressed is preliminary, pointed to an abandoned gas line that had been cut while crews, contracted by the city, were working to relocate utilities in the Realty Tower basement and prepare it for infill as part of the SMART2 project.

The crews cut the line, which was pressurized, and the explosion occurred about six minutes later. Part of NTSB’s investigation will include why an abandoned gas line was pressurized.

The mother and sister of Akil Drake, the man killed in the explosion, filed a wrongful death lawsuit over the weekend, listing the gas companies, building owner, building management company and the company that was working in the basement as defendants.

Pictured at top: Damage is seen to the Realty Tower in downtown Youngstown after an explosion May 28.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.