NEW YORK CITY (WPVI) -- A parking garage collapsed Tuesday in lower Manhattan's Financial District, killing one worker, injuring five and crushing cars as concrete floors fell on top of each other like a stack of pancakes, officials said.
Vehicles tumbled into what looked like a frozen stream of sedans and SUVs. People nearby described a fearsome rumbling, followed by screams.
Ahmed Scott arrived to collect his car after work and found a disaster in the making.
In video he shot from across the street, someone off-camera yells, "Guard! 911! 911! There's a building collapsing on Ann Street," followed by the sound of something crumpling. About 45 seconds later, two women run out, saying the building fell while they were inside it. A man stands on a fire escape as bystanders try to figure out how to help him get down. He eventually did, Scott said.
"I hope ain't nobody else in there," Scott recalled thinking, worrying for the garage workers he'd gotten to know.
To Jadess Speller, a student at nearby Pace University, the collapse "felt like an earthquake -- like the earth opened up inside, like that's how violent it was." Other students described seeing cars falling in the building.
One vehicle landed on its end in the garage entrance, a photo posted by Mayor Eric Adams' office showed.
Authorities believed they had accounted for everyone inside the building, but searches continued Tuesday evening to make sure no one was in any of the squashed cars, Fire Department Chief of Operations John Esposito said. One garage employee was rescued via a neighboring roof after being trapped on an upper floor, he said.
"He was conscious and alert and moving around, calling us. He just couldn't get down," Esposito said. Four of the injured were hospitalized and in stable condition, and the fifth refused medical attention, he said.
The garage caved in around 4 p.m., a few blocks from City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge, and about half a mile (0.8 km) from the New York Stock Exchange. Pace evacuated an adjacent dorm and classroom building, and canceled all evening classes as it assessed the buildings' safety. School officials sent the displaced students to a student center while working out other accommodations.
Don Mulligan was on the 17th floor of a nearby hotel when he heard a roar like a jet flying overhead and felt the high-rise sway.
"You knew something was happening," said Mulligan, of Cincinnati. The hotel was evacuated, he said.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collapse. City Buildings Department records show the three-story structure has been a garage at least since the 1920s, and there are no recent permits for construction.
Messages were left for a parking company that lists the garage as one of its properties.
The collapse left the building "completely unstable," Adams said at a news conference. Esposito said firefighters had to pull out because of the danger, conducting searches instead with a drone and robotic dog.
The building was "all the way pancaked, collapsed all the way to the cellar floor," acting Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik said.
William Flashnick, 19, was in a Pace classroom when he and his friends thought they heard an explosion and ran to a window to look. As they opened the window, a plume of thick dust rose in the air.
When it cleared, they peered down into the parking structure, where cars were tossed asunder and a top deck had cracked open.
Flashnick initially worried for all of their lives. One of his first thoughts was of the World Trade Center, which looms over the neighborhood.
"We freaked out. Given the history of this place, it's a little scary," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.