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100 workers escape industrial roof collapse in Easton

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By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / February 3, 2011

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Roofs collapsed in a number of Bay State communities yesterday under the crushing weight of built-up snow and ice, with the worst destruction occurring in Easton.

At about 11 a.m., a 150,000-square foot office building on Eastman Street that houses Triton Technologies Inc. and Sunco Cabinets was severely damaged when its roof and walls caved in, forcing more than 100 workers to flee. No one was injured.

“Our hearts were all racing,’’ said Sue Brillon, 42, a shipping supervisor at Sunco. She was in the lunch room at about 10:30 when she heard a loud “crackling sound.’’

She said alarms went off soon after and everyone fled to the parking lot before the building started falling section by section.

Easton Fire Chief Thomas F. Stone said a small part of the building collapsed shortly before 11 a.m., and that about three-quarters of the structure went down roughly 15 minutes after firefighters arrived on the scene. He said the collapse triggered a gas leak that took about a half-hour to contain.

“There are a couple businesses there that are going to be out of business, unfortunately, for quite some time,’’ he said.

James Finch, a worker in the specialties department at Sunco who turned 24 yesterday, said he was on the flat roof shoveling 30 minutes before the cracking started, and later also fled from the lunch room.

“My birthday present was getting out alive, I guess,’’ said Finch. “Now I got to collect unemployment and get another job.’’

Richard Smith, 64, a call center agent at Triton, said he and his co-workers sprang into action once the ceiling started to crack.

“Everyone got out of their chairs, threw off their headsets’’ and fled, he said. “If we hadn’t been forewarned [of a collapse by the cracking], you would have had 100 people in there.’’

Smith watched the building fall and said it went down quickly. “When it went . . . it went like a pancake,’’ he said. “We’re all thankful to get out.’’

Stone, the fire chief, said the building is about 30 years old and he was not aware of any code violations. He said workers had “tried to be proactive’’ during the last couple of days by shoveling the roof, especially in spots near heating generators.

Stone said damage to the building is likely to be in the millions. “My guess is the entire building will probably have to be taken down,’’ he said.

Fire Captain David Beals said in a phone interview that he planned to contact school officials to make sure they check school buildings for structural integrity.

“Our concern is that this [Eastman Street] building may not be the last one,’’ he said. “It’s only a matter of time before the next one hits.’’

Globe correspondents Jenna Duncan and Katherine Landergan and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.