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'It's traumatizing': Apartment collapse leaves long-term impact for some residents

Amber Hornik thought the loud "thud" was just another raucous house party in her apartment building. Then she saw water dripping out of a light switch.  

"Then, you open the front door and it literally looked like a waterfall " said Hornik, a  junior at the University of North Texas. "We realized we actually need to exit this area right now." 

Hornik and her roommate Rochelle Carney are two of 48 residents of The Ridge at North Texas apartments who were displaced by a third-floor collapse in Building 1. A massive homecoming party early Sunday morning in which about 50 people were seen simultaneously jumping to music inside caused the third-floor unit to give way into the apartment below.  

Videos shared on social media show broken pipes spitting streams of water as party-goers climbed up the floor's wood frame. Luckily, only six people reported minor injuries. Denton Fire Department officials said seven people drove themselves to local hospitals, but it's unclear whether they all reported injuries to authorities. 

Hornik, who's currently staying in the nearby Best Western Premier Crown Chase Inn & Suites, lived in the first-floor apartment directly below the collapse. Officials said most displaced residents were allowed to return to their units Monday evening, but Hornik is among the few who will have to find other long-term housing. 

"It's traumatizing," she said. "You're in bed halfway asleep and then you're forced out of your bed because the fire alarm starts going off and there's water everywhere."

Mark Evans, a spokesman for the apartment's management company Asset Campus Housing, said city officials and structural engineers deemed the building safe for occupancy Monday. He said the company was in the process of letting most residents know they can begin returning to their units. 

Hornik's apartment, as well as the two units above, will take longer to repair, he said. 

"Residents of the three units directly affected by the incident will be permanently moved to other housing — most likely at a nearby property — as those three units are restored," he said in an email.

Evans said he did not know whether the apartment had maximum occupancy or weight requirements. Fire officials said the entire building comprised four-bedroom units. A floor plan from the apartment shows the four-bedroom apartments ranging from 1,115 square feet to  1,220 square feet. 

Denton building official Scott McDonald went out to the site Monday morning and didn't see anything that caught his eye, according to city spokesman Brian Daskam. City building inspectors are involved as the building is being built, to make sure the work and materials meet the city's safety standards.

"They passed their inspections in order to get their certificate of occupancy," Daskam said.

Officials attributed the cause of the collapse to the party inside. At 1:39 a.m., two female residents from the second-floor unit went to the police department to report the loud party directly above, according to Denton police spokesman Bryan Cose. The fire department responded to the collapse four minutes later, while the two women were still at the police department. 

No one was inside their second-floor unit when the floor collapsed, Cose said. 

Brian Glenn, a battalion chief at the Denton Fire Department, said firefighters first responded to an active sprinkler system at the location at 1:43 p.m. Dispatch explained the severity of the incident when they arrived, and Denton police eventually went to assist with about 100 people spilling out from the building into the parking lot.

Denton paramedics set up a triage area to assist the injured in one corner of the lot. Hornik said she saw some people limping down the building's stairs after crawling out of the gaping hole.

Water pipes had burst as flowing water spilled into the apartments below. Electrical wires were also exposed, forcing authorities to shut down the building's water and electricity during the cleanup. 

"I got there by 2:20 a.m., and there was still water gushing out of the apartment," Cose said. 

UNT student Abiola Busari hosted the  party and lives in the unit that collapsed, according to WFAA-TV. Busari told the station the party got out of control when people he didn't know started showing up. 

Hornik said she's lived in her apartment since August 2016, and she and her roommates have heard several loud parties from that unit since August of this year. 

"We've constantly complained about their parties," she said, adding that the police are often called to the area. 

Cose, however, said besides the noise report at the department Sunday morning, police have only received one other noise complaint since May at that specific unit. Neither Denton police nor the  fire department are investigating potential criminal charges from the damage, according to officials. 

Hornik said one of her school projects was destroyed in the incident. She wished the residents would have at least stopped the party-goers from repeatedly jumping up and down, she said. 

"You think an elevator has a weight limit, why wouldn't the third floor have a weight limit?" she said. "And then you think of the law of gravity — what goes up must come down." 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882. 

FEATURED PHOTO: University of North Texas students and roommates Amber Hornik, left, and Rochelle Carney were in their first-floor apartment at the Ridge at North Texas early Sunday morning when they heard a loud bang. They later found out that the noise came from a third-floor apartment collapsing into the unit above them.