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Cause of fallen glass at Denver courthouse still unknown

DENVER -- Two large plates of glass fell from the stairwell railing at Denver's new Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse more than a month ago.

But things aren't much closer to an answer as to what caused it. The city is making progress in reopening the building's main entrance.

For five weeks, courthouse visitors and workers have endured delays getting into the building because of the closure.

But the bigger question is will people be safe?

The courthouse has been open just six years and cost $136 million to build.

On Sept. 21, large, heavy plates of glass fell to the ground from a fifth and third floor railing. Sheets of plywood still cover the gaps.

The stairs also remain closed. And the city isn't much closer to knowing why they collapsed.

"We are really looking into that. That's why we've called in the experts. Because to the visible eye, nothing looks wrong with the glass," city spokeswoman Jenna Espinoza said.

The city has brought in third-party inspectors who have determined the glass is up to building code.

"In the meantime, we'd like to open main entrance back up. To do that, we'll put scaffolding overhead and under the glass panels. If glass or debris falls, it will be caught by the scaffolding," Espinoza said.

The city is in a race against the impending colder weather to reopen the main entrance. The courthouse has been funneling visitors and staff through a temporary security screening entrance with just half the metal detectors.

"They can have 100 to 200 jurors that have to be here by 8 a.m. and with the employees coming in," Vanessa Rodriguez said.

She runs a food cart across the street and has seen those lines stretch to the sidewalk.

"When it first happened, it was around the block," she said.

The city said it's longer-term plan is also unknown, though it could involve replacing every piece of glass on the stairwell of nearly 300 pieces.

"It's been a little inconvenient coming and going from the courtroom. But you know, our main priority is to keep the public and staff safe," Espinoza said.

While a mystery remains about glass that shattered for seemingly no reason.

"There isn't an obvious cause," Espinoza said.

The city hopes to reopen the main entrance within the next week or two with the temporary scaffolding.

And they should know their long-term plan in a couple of weeks. Besides replacing the glass, the city could also laminate each piece so it would stay in place if shattered.