A man was injured and another died after part of a floor collapsed this morning at a Maplewood restaurant. The incident happened at Coda Kitchen and Bar at approximately 9:10am.The restaurant, located in the Maplewood Village Business District at 177 Maplewood Avenue, was under construction at the time of the incident, and was not open to customers.
Officials reported that while three construction employees were working on installing a staircase in the basement, part of the first floor collapsed into the basement, trapping the employees. A press conference was held at approximately 12:45pm, where Maplewood mayor Victor DeLuca and Chief Michael Dingelstedt of the Maplewood Fire Department spoke regarding the incident.
Mayor DeLuca called what happened "an unfortunate accident". DeLuca said that there were valid construction permits, and that the building passed inspection on May 28. The mayor also noted that the all surrounding buildings were evacuated, and that the building which Coda is located in was condemned. "It's very sad", DeLuca continued, "These things don't happen here. These buildings are in good shape...Our hearts go out to the family, this is a person who went to work today expecting to come home tonight, and they're not going to be there".
Maplewood Avenue is currently closed near Baker Street, as is Dunnell Road near the Maplewood Train Station. Mayor DeLuca told Essex County Place that schools were unaffected, however "this is having a major impact on businesses". Caution tape was placed on sidewalks near the incident, preventing pedestrians from accessing certain businesses.
While the Maplewood Fire Department and several other North Jersey emergency agencies were working on Maplewood Avenue, fire departments from South Orange, Irvington, and Millburn were handling other emergency calls.
"I want to applaud our first responders", DeLuca mentioned, saying that the Maplewood Police arrived on scene first, and rushed into the basement without any equipment.
Columbia High School principal Kirk E. Smith made an announcement to students regarding the incident. In an email to parents, Maplewood Middle School principal Jeffrey Truppo said, "the Maplewood Police Department has informed me that there has been an internal floor collapse in one of the restaurants in Maplewood Village. While our school is not in danger, I have been asked to keep all students and staff in the building because of the volume of emergency vehicles. I have also been informed that roads leading to our school have been blocked for safety reasons. As a result of our proximity to Maplewood Village, our students and staff can hear the emergency vehicles and news helicopters. I have informed our students about the situation, and explained that I will update them about any instructions for dismissal I may receive from the MPD later this afternoon. As I write this to you students are in classes where they are supposed to be, engaging in their work as they would on any other day".
The deceased man was identified as Guo Tai Chen, 50, of Flushing, Queens, NY. Once rescued, the injured construction worker was rushed to University Hospital in University Heights, Newark. The Maplewood Police Department, Maplewood Fire Department, Essex County Prosecutor's Office, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are investigating.
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