Rescue teams dug through debris Sunday night after a storm destroyed the K&G Fashion Superstore in Fairview Heights and killed an East St. Louis man.|
"There's so much debris. We're trying to move it brick by brick," said Steve Vausano of the Fairview Height Fire Department. He said the firefighters will continue to work through the night and into this morning.
Delancey H. Moore, 54, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m., St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said.
Moore worked for the state parole system. In the past, he was a jail superintendent for the St. Clair County sheriff's department and served on the Illinois prison parole board.
Two store employees and one shopper were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries that weren't life-threatening, Vausano said.
The center roof of the retail store, which formerly was a National supermarket, collapsed after strong winds shook the building. Vausano described the damage as "a pancake collapse" where the flat roof fell straight down to the ground.
Nine fire departments responded to the store. Emergency workers were still looking to make sure that no one else was trapped in the building but Vausano said he believed no one else was in the building. Vausano said all the vehicles in the parking lot were accounted for.
Store manager Doyle Averett said he loved bad weather so he was watching the sky from the front of the building. He said the wind picked up and the building started to shake about 5:30 p.m.
Averett, who lives in Belleville, said he yelled at customers and employees to head to the back of the store, then something hit him in the head, he fell down and the storm passed.
He said his more than 20 years experience as a medic in the Air Force kicked in, as he dug co-worker Donna Rutz of Collinsville out from the rubble.
"I was under tons of stuff but had a hole the length of my body," Rutz said. " It was a miracle."
Sales associate Hardy Ware said they immediately began calling to people to see whether they needed help. "Everybody was screaming, everybody was running all over the place," he said.
As he watched a crane remove large pieces of debris and brick, from the crushed building, he said, "This store is gone."
Fairview Heights Police Chief Ed Delmore said employees estimated up to 70 people were in the store when the storm hit.
Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell said the Illinois Emergency Management Agency was involved. He said he did not have information about how much aid the city would receive.
"It's like someone dropped the storm in the middle of the commercial district," said Capt. Nick Gailius of the Fairview Heights Police Department.
He said the damaged areas extended from the Interstate 64 exit at Illinois 159 south to Lincoln Trail and west to Ruby Lane.
A smell of natural gas permeated the area outside K&G on Sunday night.
For blocks and blocks, the only light came from flashing emergency vehicles and car lights.
Live wires also posed a danger to emergency workers. Police worked with the electric company to turn off power in the area near K&G.
St. Clair Square suffered some roof damage when three large pieces of paneling that were blown off hit several vehicles in the parking lot, security guard Darin Gries said.
The mall lost power during the storm and was evacuated. No serious injuries were reported, Gries said.
Schnucks supermarket on West Highway 50 also lost power and closed its doors. No one from Schnucks was available for comment.
The National Weather Service said Sunday night it was too early to say whether a tornado struck Fairview Heights. A crew will inspect the site today to determine what type of storm hit.
Elsewhere in the metro-east, trees and powerlines were knocked down, but no injuries were reported.
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Apr. 3, 2006