A Columbia firefighter has died after trying to help evacuate University of Missouri students from their apartments after a second-story walkway or balcony collapsed.
The firefighter has been identified as Lt. Bruce Britt, a 23-year veteran.
The Columbia Fire Department issued a news release Saturday morning announcing the firefighter's death.
The exterior walkway at University Village apartment complex, located at 601 S. Providence Road, collapsed about 4 a.m. Saturday, but school officials said no apartment residents were hurt.
The fire department responded to the structural emergency and worked to evacuate the building. But during the rescue, a balcony collapsed and severely injured Britt, who later died in the hospital.
University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin issued a statement Saturday expressing his condolences to the family of the firefighter.
"My heart is heavy this morning as my deepest condolences go to the family of the brave city of Columbia firefighter who was fatally injured in the line of duty helping keep the residents of University Village Apartments safe.
"We are grateful that, due to the efforts of this firefighter and others, no residents were injured. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who assisted during this emergency."
University spokesman Christian Basi said there are 12 units in the apartment complex, and 18 people were there at the time of the collapse.
Basi said residents were being housed in area hotels and provided with assistance to meet their immediate needs.
The university said safety is a top priority at its campus, especially in its housing. They, along with the fire department, expressed their sorrow for the firefighter's death.
"This morning I've spent the entire morning supporting Lt. Britt's family," Fire Chief Charles P. Witt Jr. said. "I continue to work towards the support of Lt. Britt's family. We also work towards the support of the Columbia Fire Department family to overcome this tragedy."
Some students say this was a rude awakening and they are now worried about the safety of their own buildings.
"And I said, ‘What's going on?' And one of the firemen told us to just come down and get out of the building as soon as possible," said Mahdieh Poostehi who was among those evacuated early Saturday morning.
"It does worry everybody about the safety of the buildings," said Mehdi Orouji.
A spokesperson for the university said now MU is working to inspect and secure every residential building on campus.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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