Gregory Police Sgt. David Martinez said officers responded to an emergency call at a house within the 600 block of South Gregory at 3:17 p.m. He said three men were trapped in the house, which collapsed when the homeowner - Mario Moreno - was attempting to demolish it.
No people were currently residing in the house, Martinez said.
Gregory Mayor pro tem Celestino Zambrano said there are 86 houses in Gregory that are vacant, and the city has targeted for demolition. Moreno had received notice that his house needed to be demolished, so he was working with Milan and Darrell Jackson - the third man who was trapped - to bring it down.
“The owner had received a letter from the police department because the house was a nuisance,” Zambrano said. “It was no longer livable.”
Gregory homeowners who have houses that need to be demolished can seek assistance from the city, but city staff was not involved with the demolition of Moreno’s house.
“If you’re not trained, and you don’t have the equipment, you can get hurt,” Zambrano said. “You’re better off paying a contractor.”
It is unclear if any of the men working on Moreno’s house were contractors. Large portions of the house’s walls had been removed, but the roof was still intact.
“I guess it was just human error,” Zambrano said. “I just feel bad because of the loss of life.”
City officials are using inactive water meters to determine whether property is vacant. By asking homeowners to demolish dilapidated houses, the city can access additional water meters for newcomers, and make the city more presentable. Homeowners should not feel pressured to demolish homes quickly if they do not have the adequate means to do so, however, Zambrano said.
“They can get extensions,” he said. “You just have to show you’re making progress. If, every month, you show you’re making progress, that’s good enough.”
Several emergency units responded to the emergency call, including the Gregory Police and Public Works Departments, the Portland Fire Department, the Ingleside Fire and Fire Corps Departments, the San Patricio County Sheriff and EMS Departments, the Tri-County EMS Department, the Taft Police Department, and the Guardian EMS Department, said Ingleside Fire Chief R.J. Thomas.