State News

Officials: Corroded nails caused Emerald Isle deck collapse

Posted July 5, 2015

— A deck collapse at an Emerald Isle beach house on Saturday was caused by corroded nails, authorities said Sunday.

"Preliminary findings indicate that floor joists and deck boards simply collapsed due to deteriorated fasteners (nails)," officials said in a statement. "Support pilings and other structural components remain intact."

While the deck would have met current construction standards, the “fasteners simply deteriorated,” officials said.

State building code does not require periodic home inspections unless deficiencies or complaints are noted. The home did not have any complaints on record, Emerald Isle City Manager Frank Rush said.

A final report on the collapse is expected to be released within the next few days, officials said.

Officials said 24 people, including a young child, were injured after the deck collapsed at 4403 Ocean Drive in the barrier island resort community. A family was preparing for a group photo at about 7 p.m. when the collapse occurred, authorities said.

Five people remain hospitalized on Sunday, including two in critical condition, authorities said. Four of the victims are at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. The fifth victim is at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

The victims’ names and the extent of their injuries were not immediately released. Their ages ranged from 5 to 94, officials said.

Emerald Isle Fire Chief Bill Walker said Saturday that the 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.

Walker said a specialized mass casualty bus was also brought in and that it took at least eight victims to a nearby hospital.

He added that 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.

The collapse drastically changed Jonathan Beasley's vacation.

The 17-year-old from Dunn was driving with his family when he noticed the commotion.

"I've never seen anything like that before," he said. "For a second, I was in a shocked state but I just kind of pushed through it."

Beasley said he saw children, young adults and elderly people piled on top of each other.

"Had a bone sticking out of one elderly lady's elbow and I think she had another bone sticking out somewhere else," he said. "Had a guy that had a fracture on his ankle. His bone was out."

A trained lifeguard, Beasley said it only made sense for him to help.

"If there's anybody who needs help, you just jump in and put them first before you," he said.

Charles Harr, who lives three doors from the home, said deteriorating materials on his property is a continuing concern due to living so close to the beach. The Charlotte resident said that concern led him to complete some recent restoration work.

With Saturday's collapse, Harr said he will take even more precautions.

"Well I’ve already talked to the fellow who did the restoration work, and we’re going to have a maintenance contact and every year he’s going to do exactly that," he said.

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.


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  • Connie Bechdolt Jul 7, 2015
    user avatar

    Another thing to consider. If the deck was built with the new treated lumber; not CCA; you can not use electro-galvanized nails. The nails will corrode because of a chemical reaction with the metal. You have to use hot dipped galvanized nails and screws.

  • Steven Arbogast Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    I have a 30 year old deck at my beach house and it is plenty sturdy WHEN USED AS INTENDED! 24 people on a 12'x12' area? A reasonable estimate is an average of 150lbs per person (some more some less). Do the math, that is 3600 lbs, 1 and 3/4 tons!! That is a car. I would hazard a guess that even brand spanking new constructed decks aren't engineered to withstand that, absent being built and designed for a specialized purpose. When I built my hot tub deck addition a few years ago it was required to be specifically engineered, and inspected, to hold a lot of weight on a small area. And its total weight with water was only 3300 lbs.

  • Fred Kozlof Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Why don't ALL rental properties have to have regular Inspections?

  • George Herbert Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    I'm sorry for the people who were injured. That said, however, the real estate company through which we rent our cottage has a policy that the occupancy of a property can't exceed a maximum. A six-bedroom cottage would probably have a maximum occupancy of 12.

  • Steven Cousler Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Last I checked, 12 x 12 = 144 sq ft. Divide the total sq footage by 24 = 6 sq ft per person. They probably could've squeezed 40 or more people into that space easily.

  • Mark Hubbard Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Commercial properties should have to undergo routine inspections. In coastal conditions things corrode much more rapidly. On top of that, current code I think exceeds using just nails (at least I think it does in Wake County) so that you have to use either hangers or lag bolts.

  • Vj Picotte Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    24 people on a 12 x 12 deck? How is that possible?

  • Steven Cousler Jul 5, 2015
    user avatar

    A shame that something that might have cost the homeowner a few days rent to fix will now cost him much much more than that in lawsuits.

  • Mark Farmer Jul 5, 2015
    user avatar

    The deck may have been built to code, but, To me it does not look like it was built correctly. the beams should have had a supporting network across the bottom that should be attached directly to the legs with large bolts. So no matter if the nails corroded the supporting beams should have stopped the fall of the deck.