Officer Fine After Being Hit by Falling Plaster

Posted June 25, 2009 at 3:55pm

When a Capitol Police officer was hit by a piece of ceiling plaster from the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday morning, rumors quickly circulated on the Hill and in the blogosphere.ABC 7 News reported that “a part of the ceiling collapsed— and hit the officer in the head. Other news organizations showed the officer being wheeled out on a stretcher, while initial reports described the debris as “ceiling tiles.—The truth: A 4-by-6 patch of 100-year-old plaster crumbled and fell in the Cannon building, leaving an officer with “slight swelling— on his arm.House officials say the accident doesn’t mean that the roof is going to collapse or that staffers should now look out for falling plaster. A structural engineer has looked at the area and found only cosmetic damage, said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol.“While it’s not a regular occurrence, it happens,— she said, later adding: “These are those kind of oddities that come with a historic building.—The Cannon building is more than 100 years old and overdue for extensive renovations. Congress plans to spend as much as $700 million in the next few years replacing everything from the plumbing to the plaster.In the meantime, AOC officials are playing a constant game of upkeep, scouring the building for weak spots and making repairs when needed. That system, however, isn’t foolproof, Malecki said. Much of the plaster in the Cannon building is original — and at 100 years old, it’s beginning to weaken.“If we see something that looks like it’s in need of repair, we’ll definitely take care of it,— she said. “Sometimes they don’t give any warning.—The plaster section that fell Thursday occurred on of the adjoining rooms of the Cannon Caucus Room, or Room 345. The public rarely ventures into that area, but House employees sometimes use it as a staging area for events.The officer who was hit by the plaster was transported to George Washington Hospital. By Thursday afternoon, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, the officer had been released.