Man survives Polish roof collapse only to find out his son was killed
KATOWICE, Poland – Tadeusz Dlugosz and his son were taking in separate exhibits at a racing pigeon fair when there was a loud crack and the roof tumbled down.Dlugosz clambered out from among the twisted steel beams and corrugated metal sheets – and then began the long wait for his son to join him.Hours came and went until his wife reached him on his cell phone: The body of his 26-year-old son had been found.Sixty-six people were confirmed dead and 160 were injured in the Saturday afternoon collapse. On Sunday evening, officials gave up hope of finding any more survivors in the mangled, freezing wreckage.Dlugosz waited outside the collapsed exhibition hall Sunday for someone to tell him where his son’s body had been taken.”My son died,” he said in stunned disbelief.The two had traveled 150 miles from the southeastern city of Rzeszow to attend the show devoted to pigeon racing, a sport popular in Europe in which homing pigeons are released and race home using their sharp sense of direction.”It was his idea to come to the fair, it was his decision, and he found his grave there. I don’t know which morgue he’s in,” Dlugosz said. “I would like to see him and take him as quickly as possible.” The “Pigeon 2006″ fair had more than 120 exhibitors, including groups from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine and Poland, according to the fair’s Web site.The last person rescued alive from the building was pulled out at about 10 p.m. Saturday – five hours after the cave-in, as extreme cold of 1 degree set in overnight.Another survivor, Jozef Watroba, said he was visiting the exhibition with his daughter and two sons-in-law. He said he extricated himself from the debris after three hours and his daughter was rescued, but had yet to track down the two men.”I have no information about them,” said Watroba.A day after the roof caved in, authorities turned their attention to demolishing the rest of the structure, built in 2000.”The rescue operation is over,” said Krzysztof Mejer, a spokesman for the government of the Silesia region. Rescue dogs indicated that there were no more bodies in the debris, he said.”We don’t expect anyone else to be found under the wreckage,” he said.Fire chief Kazimierz Krzowski said heavy machinery was now being called in to tear down the rest of the building.”The parts of the structure that are not lying on the ground are a threat,” he said.Transport Minister Jerzy Polacek told TVN24 television that the roof was covered with than 18 inches of icy snow, which police blamed for the collapse.However, the president of the Katowice company that organized the fair, Bruce Robinson, said that “the reasons are not clear” and that the firm was working with authorities to help determine them.Grzegorz Slyszyk, a lawyer for the building’s owners, said snow had been cleared regularly from the roof.Crumpled bird cages were scattered inside the building near the entrance, and white and brown pigeons perched on the twisted rafters.People who escaped have said two emergency exits were open, but other exits were locked, and that they saw people struggling to break windows to escape.Polish authorities said 51 of the victims had been identified by Sunday afternoon, including seven foreigners – two Slovaks, two Czechs and one victim each from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The Foreign Ministry in Berlin said two Germans were killed.President Lech Kaczynski declared a national period of mourning until Wednesday. Visiting the scene, he called it “the greatest tragedy” to hit post-communist Poland.In a similar accident Jan. 2 in Germany, 15 people were killed when a skating rink collapsed.Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the victims; speaking in Polish at the Vatican.Thousands, including Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, packed Katowice’s Cathedral of Christ the King for a Mass honoring the victims.