In May 2009, the Dallas Cowboys practice facility collapsed in a windstorm. The facility was built of steel beams covered in canvas to form a tent-like structure.
The facility was built in 2003 and received an upgrade in 2008.Twelve people were injured in the collapse. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis experienced a broken vertebra. Scout Rich Behm became paralyzed from the waist down.
Faulty Design Led to Collapse
Following an investigation of the incident, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers charged Enrique Tabak, a Canadian engineer, for faulty design of the structure. Tabak was responsible for signing off on the plans to build the practice facility.
Although Tabak argued that the incident was isolated due to the severe nature of the storm, the board found that the structure was defective in its design. The National Institute of Standards and Technology released a report analyzing the weather conditions that contributed to the building’s collapse. It found that the winds did not surpass 65 miles per hour. Engineering standards specify that structures are able to withstand winds of at least 90 miles per hour.
The board investigated the incident and found that many of the plans for the facility were not in compliance with engineering standards. Tabak did not admit to or deny these allegations. Tabak had an option to contest the fine at an administrative hearing, but he decided not to take that opportunity.
$12,000 Penalty for Violations
Tabak reached a settlement with the board, agreeing to pay more than $12,000 to settle the faulty design charges. The strongest penalty would have been to revoke Tabak’s license, but he was no longer licensed at the time of the settlement. He has been making quarterly payments that are set to end in June 2012.
According to the board, their policy is to assign a maximum $3000 fine to each offense. The $12,000 settlement amount was agreed on because of the established penalties for the offenses. Lance Kinney, the executive director of the board, claims that the $12,000 fine is the largest penalty issued in recent years.
The $12,000 does not go so far as to cover the costs of the severe injuries that Behm and DeCamillis suffered. Cover-All paid them a total of $24 million. The Cowboys contributed $10 million to settle the lawsuits arising from the incident.
Not an Isolated Incident
Tabak was employed by Summit Structures LLC when he prepared the plans. This company is a subsidiary of Cover-All Building Systems, Inc., a Canadian company. Cover-All filed bankruptcy in 2010 with an acknowledgement that their tent-like structures may have engineering flaws that make them more likely to suffer damage in weather conditions, including wind and snow.
According to court records, Cover-All and its subsidiary Summit manufactured at least three buildings that had collapsed in snowy conditions since 2002. All of the incidents involved the collapse of steel-framed structures that were covered in fabric, similar to the Cowboys practice facility.
In 2002, an Oregon facility manufactured by Summit collapsed in a heavy snowfall. The weight of the snow was reported to be substantially less than the advertised capacity of the structure. In 2003, a Cover-All facility that contained freight for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority collapsed under the heavy weight of snow.
In 2007, another Cover-All structure collapsed in New York when a snowstorm caused the fabric membrane to tear. In all of the cases, the amount of snowfall was less than the advertised weight-bearing capacity of the structures.
Cover-All was acquired by Norseman Structures Inc. in June 2010.