April 23: Connecticut’s Worst Construction Disaster: L’Ambience Plaza


In early 1987, excitement was building in Bridgeport for “L’Ambience Plaza,” a new luxury apartment complex slated to open later that year on the corner of Washington Avenue and Coleman Street.  Those dreams of downtown revitalization were suddenly dashed, however, in the afternoon hours of April 23.  At 1:36pm, construction crews had just hoisted a massive concrete slab onto one of the two plaza towers when the western tower suddenly collapsed, bringing down the entire complex in under six seconds.  Hundreds of tons of concrete came crashing down, killing 28 construction workers, injuring 22 others, and covering the surrounding streets and highways in thick clouds of dust.

Theories abounded regarding the direct cause of the disastrous collapse, ranging from a bent support column and inadequate equipment to flat-out negligence on behalf of the contractors.  After months of investigations, the federal prosecutor assigned to the case recommended against filing any criminal charges, citing a lack of conclusive evidence.  In late 1988, however, a civil settlement resulted in approximately $41 million paid to the families of the victims of the collapse.  Federal officials placed a moratorium on using “lift-slab” construction (the technique used to build L’Ambience) on new buildings until 1994, when the method was once again allowed under newer, stricter regulations.

One of the two Bridgeport memorials honoring the victims and first responders of April 23, 1987. (ctmonument.net)

The L’Ambience Plaza collapse remains the deadliest construction disaster in Connecticut history.  Today, two memorials in Bridgeport honor the construction workers who lost their lives as well as the rescue workers who searched for them during the ten-day recovery effort that followed the tragic incident.

Further Reading

Patrick J. Mahoney, “The Collapse of L’Ambience Plaza,” connecticuthistory.org

L’Ambience Plaza Memorials, Bridgeport” ctmonuments.net

Painful Memories,” Connecticut Post

Photos: L’Ambience Plaza Collapse,Hartford Courant