The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 6, 2014

No outrage over construction

NORMAN — A story was published on the front page of The Journal Record’s Feb. 21 issues with the headline: “Deathtrap — Moore tornado debris reveals construction flaws, code violations.”

The story appeared after months of research, but it started with a simple conversation at the state Capitol. Chris Ramseyer, a University of Oklahoma engineering professor, was part of a team asked to explain what might have been done in the design and construction of the Briarwood and Plaza Towers schools that would have prevented the injuries and deaths that occurred May 20 when the buildings were destroyed by an EF-5 tornado.

Ramseyer was at the Capitol on Sept. 24 to tell legislators conducting an interim study about his early findings, which showed that Briarwood was not built right. He was personally outraged at what he saw: construction so shoddy, there was little chance the building would protect its occupants.

The roomful of legislators sat glassy-eyed as Ramseyer presented the startling news. There was no moral outrage. No indignation that a firm would put young children in a substandard building on the bull’s-eye of Tornado Alley.

It would be reasonable to expect that superintendents and legislators scrambled to inspect their buildings. ... It surely would be predictable that Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines would inspect Westmoore High School, which was designed and built by the same firm responsible for Briarwood. That defunct company, RGDC, left a trail of flawed buildings. Tornado season in Oklahoma starts in about three weeks. Children will be in school until late May, when tornado season begins to wind down.

— The Journal Record

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