Portion of county courthouse ceiling collapses

Wednesday, August 9, 2006
A portion of the ceiling in the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse court clerk's office collapsed on Tuesday. No one was injured. (Don Frazier)

A huge slab of plaster collapsed in the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon, narrowly missing county public works director Don McQuay.

The collapse, in the offices of the associate circuit court clerks, was preceded by reports of sounds coming from above the drop ceilings. McQuay was in the office shortly after it closed, attempting to call Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp, when he heard a ripping sound of the plaster giving way.

"I hollered at the guys to get the hell out," McQuay said.

The collapse left the room a jumble of broken ceiling tiles, ventilation tubing and crushed equipment. Kamp had a full court schedule for this morning, but the files for every case are now buried. He said the cases would be postponed for a week.

County commissioners held an emergency meeting with McQuay and Kamp last night as election returns were being tabulated. They agreed to put as many county employees on the task of clearing the debris.

The courthouse was built in 1908. The plaster ceiling was hidden behind a drop ceiling that was installed several years ago.

McQuay attributed the collapse to fatigue of the plaster. There was no indication that leaks or other factors from outside led to the weakening of the plaster.

Jackson firefighters were called to the scene by an automatic alarm. Capt. Jason Mouser said he believes the alarm was set off by dust reaching the alarm system.

"I'm glad it happened when it did and not before everybody left for the day," Mouser said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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