Home at Risk of Collapse Torn Down Before it Could Fall

For several weeks, the house had been teetering on the brink of collapse into the Winooski River.

A home in Burlington, Vermont that had been teetering on the brink of collapse into the Winooski River has been demolished.

The renters of the Plattsburg Avenue property were forced to flee May 22, when a series of landslides sent the very sandy soil at the home tumbling into the water. The landslides robbed the property of its backyard and left the structure at high risk of crumbling into the water, the Burlington Public Works Department said.

Monday, after weeks of planning and permitting, a work crew used an excavator to tear the home down before it could fall down. The nearby Winooski River flows into Lake Champlain, so all parties involved wanted to reduce the potential environmental harm that could have come from a total collapse into the river.

Initially, environmental and public safety officials speculated that the river bank had likely been slowly weakening for many years, due to the natural flow of the Winooski River at the point where the home sat in a bend in the river.

"It's really, really sad to watch," said Marci Oughstun, who had been renting the property and returned to witness some of the demolition Monday.

Oughstun said the home held many happy memories for her, her husband, and their toddler son. The mom watched the contractors rip apart the property, which still had many of her possessions inside that she was unable to retrieve after the city determined the home was too hazardous to enter.

Before that determination was made, Oughstun said she and her family were briefly allowed to enter the home to collect a few valuables and heirlooms.

The family has been living with relatives until they locate a new house.

"We are glad we're moving forward," Oughstun told necn. "It's just sad to see the place where you lived and felt comfortable and had a lot of happy memories get taken down."

Oughstun's out-of-state landlord, Mariette Nys, is footing the bill for the demolition, her attorney said. Nys and her husband used to live in the home themselves, before retiring to Florida and converting it into a rental property.

The owners' lawyer, Dennis Hill, said Monday that insurance has not covered the losses to the property, but now that the demolition is complete, he and the couple would be looking at the policies in "extremely close detail," hoping for a change on that.

"They're very thankful the tenants did not get hurt," Hill said, recounting the feelings of his clients in Florida. "I think it's a testament to the way they built the house. It was well-constructed and did not break open when the major event occurred."

During the demolition work Monday, some debris went careening toward the Winooski, but most of it was contained to a pile contractors will now work on removing and recycling.

And, in what is a a case of adding insult to injury, Marci Oughstun said while she was waiting for the home to be torn down, burglars struck. This happened after the property was condemned, she said, adding that Burlington police did investigate.

Oughstun said the burglars took several things from the family, including her young son's piggy bank.

Oughstun expressed gratitude to members of the community that showed her family kindness after the landslides. Even though she and her husband did not have renters’ insurance, a GoFundMe page started by her sister has so far collected more than $7,500 to help the couple get back on their feet.

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