Deck collapse leaves at least 21 injured, including kids and firefighters, in Wildwood

KYW Staff
September 14, 2019 - 10:00 pm
Scene of a building structure damage in Wildwood, N.J

Ahmad Austin/The Press of Atlantic City via AP

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WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP/KYW Newsradio) —  A home's multilevel deck collapsed Saturday evening at the Jersey Shore during an event weekend, trapping people and injuring at least 21, including some children, officials said. No deaths were reported.

The collapse took place around 6 p.m. Saturday along the 200 block of East Baker Avenue. It was unclear how many people were on or under the decks at the time, or how many were firefighters, but authorities said those who were trapped were quickly removed.

Wildwood mayor and fire battalion chief Ernie Troiano Jr. tells KYW Newsradio that he's never witnessed a scene like what he and his crew came across Saturday night.

"The third floor collapsed on the second floor, collapsed onto the first floor, just pancaked straight down," he said.

Troiano says this weekend the shore town is playing host to New Jersey Firemen's Convention. So when disaster struck, there were plenty of people ready to jump into action.

"Before we got there some of them were able to get there and help remove some of the deck off of some of the people that were caught," he said.

Neighbor, Michael Harris says after the first deck collapsed he ran to try and help.

"When I got there the second one collapsed. So I was helping keep the weight so it wouldn't shift down until all the EMTs and firefighters got here to take over," he said.

The annual convention attracts thousands of current and former firefighters to the resort town. Firefighters were likely among those hurt or trapped.

Cape May Regional Health System said 21 people were taken there, at least three of them children. Eleven patients had been released by 10 p.m., including all the children who were admitted, hospital spokeswoman Susan Staeger said.

First responders treat an injured person as they work the scene of a building structure damage in Wildwood, N.J.
James Macheda via AP

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City said at least one additional person was taken there.

The conditions of the remaining hospitalized people wasn't known.

Photos and video on social media showed firefighters trying to lift a piece of decking. Images showed multiple levels of decking ripped away from the building and reduced to beams and splintered wood.

The decks appeared to have been attached to a three-story building and topped by a fourth-floor overhang. The second and third levels appeared to have pancaked onto a first-floor deck. The overhang looked intact.

"This was an older building that we rehabbed some 15 years ago," Troiano said.

Nearby resident Joann Devito saw the collapse from a deck across the street.

"I was sitting on the deck up there, and I heard this noise, so I turned and looked and saw the whole thing caving in," she said. "I saw two women running and screaming. It was horrible."

People stopped by the scene on Sunday, marveling at the damage and reflecting on how much worse it could've been.

Visitors  included locals who say they heard multiple wailing sirens Saturday night, at first thinking it was a celebration connected to the annual convention. 

Danielle Demayo, who works at a nearby school, says Facebook posts soon made it clear that it was something dead serious.

"I rode my bike up here just to see if it was (involving) any families of students that I have at the school. But thank God it wasn't," she said.

Asked how she would feel about going out onto elevated decks in the future, she said, "It's scary. It would make me think to never go on one again."

She added it could have been much worse.

"There was just one, I believe, serious injury that needed to be flown out. But other than that, it's almost a miracle."

Troiano says architects, construction officers, and contractors are currently working to see how to fix the home of the collapsed deck.

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KYW Newsradio's Justin Udo and Molly Daly contributed to this report.

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