Weekend tragedy now a downtown curiosity
By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
Along Ashley Street below, lunchtime pedestrians shielded their eyes from the sun as they pointed skyward to the spot where a teenage boy had steered a Cessna airplane into the building on Saturday, shattering two windows and killing himself.
They gawked, whispered and shook their heads, then continued on their way.
Aside from the spectacle of boarded-up windows on a 42-story tower, it was a relatively unremarkable day for downtown workers Monday, the first official workday since the crash of the Cessna into the 28th floor of the Bank of America Plaza building.
About 2,000 people work in the Plaza, made up mostly of accountant offices and law firms. Monday, some of them expressed sadness at the bizarre actions of a 15-year-old boy. Others said they felt pensive walking through the halls.
Windows that once offered spectacular views of Tampa Bay now made them a bit anxious.
"Every time you look out the window, you kind of think twice now," said attorney John Lauro, who has offices on the 39th floor. "It just reinforces how vulnerable everybody is."
But many said they felt safe returning to work. They wondered when a block of Ashley Street between Kennedy Boulevard and Jackson Drive would be reopened to pedestrians and motorists.
That portion of Ashley Street remained roped off to protect people from falling debris. Tampa police officers guarded the block where one of the plane's wings had broken off and landed, and where pieces of marble, shards of glass and chunks of concrete had fallen from the building after the impact.
Beard did not have a damage estimate Monday. He said they are leaving it up to insurance companies to cover repair costs.
Beard visited the law offices of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, which occupy the 28th floorand part of the 29th floor. The office that was damaged by the plane's impact had been cleaned up, Beard said, "like nothing had happened."
The only grumbling came from workers from the exclusive Tampa Club, who had been working on the 42nd floor when the crash happened Saturday.
Some complained Monday that they weren't notified of the impact.
Marlon Lauretta, who does maintenance for the Tampa Club, said he heard a loud boom and thought someone had dropped something. About 40 workers were preparing a buffet feast for a post-New Year's party for about 150 people and an anniversary celebration for 22.
Lauretta walked around, asking what the noise was. Then they heard sirens. They walked over to the window, looked out into the street below and found the building surrounded by police cars and fire engines.
Someone called the building security guard office, but there was no answer, Lauretta said. The concierge called the Tampa Police Department, about two blocks away, and was told that their building had been hit by a plane.
"That's when everybody left," Lauretta said.
They made the descent down 42 flights -- a feat that usually takes between 10 to 12 minutes during drills. At about the 19th floor, the alarm sounded.
Beard said the alarm was activated by firefighters who connected their hoses. It did not go off after the impact because there was never a fire or any smoke. He also said the security guard was not able to answer the telephone because he was on the 28th floor, checking on the plane.
"According to the fire and police departments, as well as building management, everything went as well, if not better, as it could have given the circumstances," said Harry Costello, speaking for the building management company.
He added: "I think whenever you have a situation like this, there is always going to be a complete review of all policies and procedures, and that would be one of the elements that would be looked at."
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