Fairfax Storm Victim Identified

By Hayley Bruce, The Gazette

FAIRFAX, Iowa — Linn County authorities have released the name of an Intermec employee killed during Monday’s severe weather in Fairfax.

David Lee Fry, 57, of Cedar Rapids, died from injuries suffered during a building collapse.

He joined the company in 1976 and served as a senior regulatory engineer.

The building came down Monday afternoon sometime before 2:45 p.m. when emergency personnel responded to reports of a building blown down by high winds with people trapped inside at 90 W. Cemetery Road.

The building at that address, constructed in 1985, was home to a unique testing site used to test products for electromagnetic interference. It was originally custom built and leased to Norand Corporation, which was acquired by Intermec Inc. in 1997. Intermec was acquired by Honeywell in September.

Mark Steffens, the site leader for Honeywell’s Cedar Rapids Technology Center, said Fry was an extremely dedicated employee.

“He was instrumental in helping to build the Fairfax test site into an integral part of our engineering capabilities,” Steffens said in a written statement. “Dave was always willing to help out others in any way possible and was well known for his expertise.”

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with Dave’s family during this difficult time.”

When emergency personnel arrived on scene, they found Fry under the rubble. He was pronounced dead after responders were able to lift part of the structure off him on Monday.

The other employee thought to be trapped — 62-year-old Cedric Brownfield of Cedar Rapids — had escaped and was standing outside the facility with non-life threatening injuries when rescuers arrived.

Mark Hamel, communications manager at Honeywell International, released a statement from the company on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a very sad time for Honeywell in Cedar Rapids, where we lost a colleague and friend in yesterday’s storm,” Hamel said. “We are grateful that a second employee survived the destruction.”

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with our fallen colleague’s family, friends and co-workers during this time.”

Hamel said the building was a small test bed facility and the two employees spent most of their time out there. The pair conducted testing operations that are related to the research and development work that is done in the Intermec by Honeywell technology center in Cedar Rapids.

The 30-foot building that sat at the northwest edge of the town was unique because it was built without using any metal.

Instead of metal nails, bolts or plates, the vinyl-sided building — contracted by the late Buck Hill of Harvest Hill Construction Company — was held together with nylon bolts, adhesive and plywood.

Company officials did not address how the building had been maintained or structurally modified since it was built in 1985 on Tuesday.

Hamel said the building still served as a test site for evaluating product compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements for cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Radio Frequency Identification radio transmitters and digital equipment. The facility is accredited by the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program for this type of testing.

At the time of construction, Norand engineers said the building had to be non-metallic because metal could throw off the electromagnetic interference testing. Electronic products need to be tested for interference because some products cause electronic noise that can interfere with other forms of radio communication, such as a police radio system or ground control communications at an airport.

The damage pattern of the collapsed building suggests the roof was blown off the building causing some of the walls to collapse inward, according to the National Weather Service. The peak winds during the thunderstorm in Fairfax were estimated at 80 miles per hour. When originally constructed over 20 years ago, Norand specified that the building be able to withstand 100-mile-per-hour wind gusts.

l Comments: (319) 398-8230; hayley.bruce@sourcemedia.net

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