Victor R. Caivano  /  AP
This aerial-view photo, taken Monday, shows the hole where a subway station under construction collapsed near the Pinheiros River, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
updated 1/18/2007 1:18:03 AM ET 2007-01-18T06:18:03

Prosecutors said Wednesday they suspect mistakes by private builders, rather than heavy rains, caused the collapse of a subway station construction site that buried at least seven people.

Authorities also warned they may halt work on the station, part of a $1.4 billion subway line being built in South America’s largest city, as they investigate what caused last Friday’s collapse that killed three people and left four others missing and presumed dead.

“A serious mistake was made, and what we have to do now is determine if it was in the planning or in its execution,” Sao Paulo state Attorney General Rodrigo Pinho said.

Part of a 130-foot-wide circular hole lined with concrete gave way without warning, swallowing pedestrians, a minibus driving by the site, and dump trucks being used in the project. Several nearby homes were damaged and must now be torn down.

Pinho said the consortium’s suggestion that rain was a leading cause was “ridiculous.” Sao Paulo typically experiences heavy rain from November through April and all construction companies factor that into their building plans.

The Via Amarela Consortium building the subway line declined to comment on Pinho’s statements, saying “our main concern now is to attend to the families of the victims and to those who have lost their homes.” The company previously issued a statement denying negligence.

Earlier Wednesday, rescue crews recovered the body of truck driver Franciso Sabino Torres, bringing to three the number of dead retrieved from the crater-like hole left after the collapse.

Authorities were still trying to recover the bodies of four more people thought buried under tons of rubble and debris, three of them believed to be in the entombed minibus.

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