State News

At least 14 hurt in deck collapse at North Carolina beach

Posted July 4, 2015
Updated July 5, 2015

— A deck collapsed at a North Carolina beach house as a family prepared to take a group photo Saturday evening, leaving at least 14 people injured with two of those in critical condition, authorities said.

A spokeswoman at a nearby hospital later said 20 people, including a young child, were rushed to that one hospital alone, indicating the injury total was higher.

Emerald Isle Police Chief Jeffrey Waters said an emergency call came in at 6:59 p.m. Saturday, and first responders arrived within minutes at the home on 4403 Ocean Drive in the barrier island resort community, which was packed with beach-goers for the long holiday weekend.

"The family was on the deck preparing to take a family photo when the event occurred," the police statement said.

First responders immediately began triage because of the number of those hurt. "Due to the number of (injuries) involved, neighboring agencies were called in to assist in transporting and dealing with the victims," the statement added.

Police said at least two people were in critical condition, and one was airlifted to a New Hanover Regional Medical Center. There was no immediate report on that person's condition.

Fire Chief Bill Walker said a deck area estimated to be about 12 feet by 12 feet gave way from about 10 to 12 feet above the ground.

"It was a one-story house on pilings," he said, adding many victims were found concentrated around the site of the collapse.

"There was a lot of people ... but luckily we pulled together and (the emergency operation) went like clockwork," he added. "Our department was the first department in," he said, adding he ran a "command and action center" to coordinate fire, police and emergency medical personnel called in from several nearby communities.

He said there may have been more people present than the 14 reported injured by police, but he didn't count them. He added that injuries ranged from minor cuts and abrasions to more severe injuries that appeared to include broken bones.

Walker said a specialized mass casualty bus also had been brought in and that it took at least eight of the victims to one nearby hospital.

He said deck collapses are not common.

"It's been about 10 years since we've had one of these, so it's not an everyday occurrence," Walker said.

A spokeswoman at Carteret General Hospital in neighboring Morehead City said 18 people were transported by emergency medical crews to that hospital a few miles away, and two others came by private car.

"We saw a total of 20 patients from the accident. Of those 20, six are in the process of being sent out to three other hospitals," said the spokeswoman, Tonya Fluellen. She told AP that the injured ranged from serious to critical.

"We've seen a little bit of everything. I can't give you a whole lot of detail but we've seen some orthopedic injuries," she added, citing patient privacy laws. She declined to elaborate further on a young child she said was injured.

Identities and relations of those injured weren't disclosed. It also wasn't initially clear if a number of the injured were from one family.

Police said in their statement that the cause of the collapse wasn't yet known.

Emerald Isle is one of several resort communities lining barrier islands tucked along the coast of the southeast corner of North Carolina. Police gave an address for the collapse as being a home, like many others, perched side by side in order rows just yards from a wide beach fronting the surf.

“This is really tragic,” Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber told the Carteret County News-Times. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured, and well-wishes to their families.”

The six-bedroom, five-bathroom home was built in 1986 and is listed for sale on the real estate website for $1.1 million. It also is rented through Bluewater Real Estate. An employee at the rental office said Sunday morning that the company had no statement since the investigation is continuing, but sent thoughts and prayers to the family. She wouldn't give her name.


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  • Steven Cousler Jul 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Looks like the homeowner better have some darn good insurance insurance and better be prepared for lawsuits. That deck looks to be well over 10 years old and possibly 20 or more. Lumber looks to be a treated pine (the cheapest and least durable for a deck). Stains around the screw and nail holes point to corrosion and something easily spotted by routine inspection - which obviously did not happen. An accident waiting to happen, lucky no one was killed.

  • Charlie Watkins Jul 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Well now those owners of beach property will have to increase their coverage. Which means the cost increase will be passed along to all of us who live inland.

    They may be rich enough to buy the oceanfront home but need your help paying the insurance. Since we are helping them pay their insurance it looks like they would invite the hired help down for a day at the beach.

    Don't hold your breath.

  • Norman Lewis Jul 5, 2015
    user avatar

    So another grossly overpriced beach home with possibly shoddy construction, has had another "deck, patio, second level etc." collapse? Having a beach home has special requirements to ensure construction is up to standards and no cut corners due to the expectation the home will not be occupied year round and that adequate maintenance is maintained. How many decks, second levels etc have collapsed in non-coastal areas? I don't recall any lately. A properly constructed deck on normal soil should be able to support over twice the stated load of people injured in the story. The normal load for a properly constructed 12x12 foot deck on normal soil should be over 7000 lbs. Any special circumstances concerning soil should be addressed before construction.