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The north face of Minard Hall collapsed overnight during a construction project at North Dakota State University. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)

No one injured in overnight collapse at NDSU excavation site

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FARGO -- Part of a wall collapsed from Minard Hall, a classroom building on the North Dakota State University campus, sometime between midnight and 3 a.m. Sunday.

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No one was in the building at the time and no one was hurt in the collapse, according to a news release from the Fargo Fire Department.

NDSU police officers found steam rolling out of the building, said Najla Ghazi Amundson, NDSU media relations director. She said the steam was from a pipe that broke in the collapse.

Upon arrival, firefighters reported the foundation had sunk along the edge of an excavation site on the north side of the building and the west half of the north outside wall had collapsed into the excavation.

The excavation work was being done by Meinecke-Johnson Construction as part of an $18 million project to build an addition onto Minard Hall, Ghazi Amundson said.

A man reached at the Fargo home of a Randall Johnson declined to comment and deferred questions to NDSU. Meinecke-Johnson Co. lists Randall E. Johnson as its president. The office was closed Sunday.

The electricity, water and steam were shut off in Minard Hall, and there was no gas service to the building following the collapse, according to the fire department.

Bruce Franz, NDSU director of facilities management, met with structural engineers from Heyer Engineering, soil consultants from Northern Technologies, contractors from Meinecke-Johnson and representatives from JLG Architects, all of Fargo.

Franz said more office space was damaged in the collapse than classroom space.

Almost half of the north wall of Minard Hall is gone, making it look like a squashed dollhouse.

Sunday afternoon a bulletin board teetered precariously on the sunken wall, the notes pinned to its surface fluttering in the breeze, while a gold and green pompom dangled over the dilapidated wall's edge.

"That's my office," said Keri Drinka, director of college advancement for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Science and Math.

Drinka said two of her husband's Navy shirts were in her office because she planned to frame them as a birthday surprise. She said she keeps thinking about what she might have had along the now-collapsed wall.

"You just never think that anything like this would ever happen," she said. "I'm just so thankful that nobody was in there."

Minard Hall houses arts and humanities offices as well as classrooms for English, psychology, communications, history, math and sociology.

Bryan Leininger, a fifth-year landscape architecture major, and Ryan Bacon, a fifth-year industrial engineering major, stopped by to survey the damage from across the street Sunday.

"It's pretty ridiculous," Leininger said. "I can't believe we're an engineering school and this kind of stuff happens on campus."

Thomas Riley, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said that had it not been a weekend during semester break, people easily could have been in the building.

"Even on weekends when exam times are high, people are writing papers and things like that, you'll get people in there all hours of the night and day, so we were in many ways very, very fortunate," he said.

Riley found out about the collapse on his way home from a Christmas trip to Texas.

"I was absolutely shocked," he said. "At first, I thought it was a joke."

His is also one of the exposed offices on the north end of the building.

"We had talked a little bit about the stability of the building, but it was being monitored by one of the companies that were involved in the renovation," he said. "It appeared that things were going well, so it was a real shock to see that the north end had collapsed."

Desks, filing cabinets and bookshelves sat exposed to the elements. Some of those shelves house limited edition books.

Dale Sullivan, who heads the English department, said there are thousands of dollars worth of books in the exposed offices, one of which is his.

"I have 30 years of books in there that I've collected," he said. "Some are irreplaceable."

Franz said they will do whatever can be done to save personal and professional materials but first the foundation needs to be stabilized.

Contractors are working to shore up the area, he said. The locks have also been changed so faculty and staff cannot get inside the building.

Franz said he is hopeful the building will be ready for the return of students the first day of class Jan. 11.

At this point, the cause is unknown, he said.

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