Survivor of building collapse asked: 'Am I going to die?'

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The woman who was rescued from beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in downtown Sioux Falls says she tries to find solace in simple things as she recovers from the ordeal.

Emily Fodness said she often thinks of the person who did not survive the collapse of the 100-year building on Dec. 2, construction worker Ethan McMahon, a former Marine and father of two.

"I'm grateful that I'm here, but I'm mourning the life that was lost," Fodness said. "We will be forever attached because of what happened. Then you sort of think, Why? I'm thankful that I got out, but I wish the story was different with Ethan."

Fodness, 22, was sleeping in her family's third-floor loft as construction crews worked on remodeling the street-level bar into a drugstore. She was awakened by a confusing noise. She was used to the construction noise, but this was different.

"It was a loud rumbling, louder than I was used to," she says. "I had a feeling that it had something to do with the construction, but I knew something wasn't right."

Fodness remembers being "a little freaked out" as she turned over in bed.

"So while I was turning over in bed, just waking up, I looked and saw that my floor was collapsing. My bed is one corner, and the floor started caving in the opposite corner. I remember trying to hold onto anything while I was going down toward the center of the room. So my mattress tipped downward at its corner, and me and my dog fell before the mattress fell," Fodness said.

Suddenly the building buckled and the floor beneath the loft collapsed, burying Fodness in debris. She said she didn't realize at the time the whole building had collapsed.

Fodness recalls thinking the only way out was to grab her phone, which fortunately was within reach. She called her mom and for the next three hours remained trapped in darkness and freezing temperatures until rescuers could reach her.

She drew comfort from her dog Nova who had survived the collapse beside her, Fodness told the Argus Leader ( ). The rescuers actually reached Nova before they saw Emily.

She stretched out her arm as far as she could, as firefighter Dustin Luebke grabbed it.

"He told me, 'We have you, and we're not going to let you go.' That was an incredible relief," Fodness said.

"At one point I asked, 'Am I going to die?'" recalls Fodness. "And I was told, 'No, we're getting you out.'"

Fodness walks on crutches and undergoes physical therapy for her injuries to her hips and legs. She has bad dreams and gets skittish at the sound of sirens.

"You try to wake up like it's any other day, but that's pretty hard right now," she said.


Information from: Argus Leader,

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