Oops! Georgia Family Distraught After Contractor Destroys Wrong House

Georgia family distraught after contractor demolishes the wrong house.

June 12, 2009— -- A Georgia homeowner whose cherished family home was mistakenly demolished said he wants to know how a contracted demolition crew could make such an egregious error.

The modest, three-bedroom house at 11 Byrd Trail in Carrollton was built by Al Byrd's father in 1950. Now it's a mangled pile of debris.

"It was disbelief," Byrd said of the moment he saw the remains of the house where he and his nine siblings were raised. "It was like a mirage."

An Austin-based realty company, Forestar Group Inc., had contracted the demolition of a vacant one-story house at 3050 Highway 16 South, about 150 yards from Byrd's house and on the opposite side of the road.

But Byrd, 64, said he was told by Larry Watts of Marietta, Ga.-based Southern Environmental Services that the crew that actually did the demolition had picked Byrd's house to destroy based on GPS coordinates.

But Forestar Chief Financial Officer Chris Nines told ABCNews.com that his company gave Southern Environmental Services color photos and an address to work from and that he has no idea how they allegedly got GPS coordinates.

"Certainly, we're not happy about it and feel bad for Mr. Byrd," Nines said.

Watts did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Brandon Hannah of North Georgia Container, the company subcontracted with Southern Environmental Services for the actual demolition, confirmed he was at the site, but declined to comment further.

Byrd, whose only daughter is getting married Saturday, now lives in Atlanta where he runs a eponymous consulting businesses but the family maintained the Byrd Trail home and were hoping to use it for an upcoming family reunion.

Byrd said his father, a plasterer who has since passed away, built the house for his wife and 10 children in 1950 using bricks from a nearby school that had burned down.

Though no one was living in the house when it was destroyed, Byrd said it had been home to many in the large family, most recently his nephew. The house was still furnished and contained many family heirlooms that were pulverized in the demolition.

"The most precious thing ... was the family Bible," Byrd said.

The Byrd family Bible, kept in the house as a kind of spiritual watchdog, contained a record of all the births and deaths in the family.

Looking for an Explanation

Byrd said he has hired an attorney, but what he wants most right now is answers.

"We're trying to connect the dots," he said. "This story is most unreal."

Byrd said Watts met him at the house to apologize, but he has yet to get an explanation of events from Southern Environmental Services or Forestar Group.

"I said, 'Didn't you see furniture in there?'" Byrd said.

An apology was also issued from subcontractor North Georgia Container, which was onsite during demolition. But Byrd said they were quick to point out that their company wasn't at fault.

And Watts told him, Byrd said, that he called Forestar and gave a description of the house before it was destroyed.

Byrd said there is no way his house could be reasonably mistaken for the house at 3050 Highway 16 South. His house was brick covered in stucco with a black roof. The vacant house owned by Forestar, was covered in siding and had a green roof.

While Byrd said the house was invaluable to his family, Carroll County lists the assessed value of his home at $51,330. The other house was listed with a value of $169,473, likely, according to the county, because of its acreage and improvements in the late 1970s.