Originally published at 4:30 p.m. on 12/10/2016 | Updated at 10:15 p.m.
For the first time since the deadly building collapse in Downtown Sioux Falls, the co-owner of Hultgren Construction is speaking out.
“Hultgren Construction will accept responsibility if it is determined we are responsible,” Aaron Hultgren said in a letter to the community.
The letter was dated Friday, but released to KELOLAND News Saturday.
“Our friend and team member, Ethan McMahon was laid to rest today. Neither the McMahon family, nor the Hultgren Construction team, will ever completely recover from this tragedy,” Hultgren said.
He also shared condolences to Emily Fodness and her family and business owners in Downtown Sioux Falls.
“Since the very moment of the collapse, Hultgren Construction has been fully cooperating with multiple investigations that are ongoing, investigations intending to both avoid further harm, and to determine why the building collapse occurred,” Hultgren said.
OHSA was on-scene investigating the collapse last week.
Hultgren is asking the media and public to be patient.
“More work needs to be done, before any conclusions are reached, as to what caused the building collapse,” Hultgren said.
This week our KELOLAND News investigation has revealed that Hultgren Construction was taking out a 90 foot wall between Copper Lounge and Skelly’s without the legal permit to do so.
Former builder owner Tim Kant told KELOLAND News that the Fodness family voiced their concerns about cracks in the walls of their loft in the building to Hultgren Construction several times, but that the construction company did nothing. Kant also told us he was informing the City about the problem just moments before the building collapsed.
We’ve also learned that while the City licenses home builders, it does not license commercial contracts. A subcontractor who worked on Hultgren projects came forward to speak out about safety issues he saw on the jobs sites and the wall he saw removed in the Copper Lounge building that he says was without adequate support.
KELOLAND News also uncovered evidence of more questionable work by Hultgren Construction on a couple of its well-known projects.
“Hultgren Construction is not in a position to both correct or rebut local media, and, at the same time, cooperate with authorities,” Hultgren said. “We are prioritizing our efforts by fully cooperating with the authorities.”
In the letter, Hultgren asks the community to keep an open mind.
“We are not a victim, but we live in this community with our families,” Hultgren said. “Our children go to school here. Despite local media accounts, please reserve judgment while the experts complete their work.”