Expert: Collapsed NC deck may have been damaged

RAW: Neighbor of deck collapse calls 911
A photo of the deck taken Wednesday morning.
A photo of the deck taken Wednesday morning.
A deck collapsed at a home Tuesday on the far west end of Ocean Isle Beach.
A deck collapsed at a home Tuesday on the far west end of Ocean Isle Beach.

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WECT/AP) – A building expert says the collapse of a second-story deck at a house in Brunswick County indicates the deck may have sustained storm damage.

One of the people staying at the house said the family went onto the deck to take a picture when the wood buckled under them.

North Carolina Building Inspectors Association President Glenn Batten says the deck should have held that many people, but suddenly, the second floor patio collapsed onto a first story concrete patio. Someone staying at the house said the victims ranged in ages from children to adults.

"Our porch at our beach house just fell thru," one of the girls said on a 911 call. "We were all taking a family picture and it just fell and a couple people are hurt. It just fell."

Batten says the fact it collapsed tells him the deck may have suffered hurricane damage. He says if the house had been through the winds of a couple of hurricanes, some of the fasteners may have been pulled and stretched to their limits.

With 25 people on the deck, that could mean it was holding 4,000 pounds or more when it collapsed.

The accident sent 21 people to the hospital Tuesday night with traumatic injuries ranging from broken bones to cuts. As of Wednesday night, at least five were treated and released. Emergency officials expect all of the victims to survive.

Neighbor Ray Weir said he could hear the wood breaking and people screaming as the deck fell to the ground. He said it was terrifying and it was lucky that no one died.

One of the people staying at the house said he was relieved that no one was killed in the accident.

Following the accident, Anthony Marzano, Brunswick County's Emergency Director, said 21 people were taken to the hospital.

One was flown by helicopter to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.

Several others were taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach.

According to Amy Myers from Brunswick Novant Medical Center, five of the victims taken to that hospital have been treated and released. Myers said two others remain in the hospital.

Weir said he saw a man come home from the hospital with a cast on his leg who seemed to be in a lot of pain and shaken up by the incident.

Now, officials in the beach town are trying to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I've actually had a long-standing opinion of this situation," said Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith. "These oceanfront decks need to be held to a higher standard than North Carolina laws require."

The home was last inspected in 2003 when construction of the property was complete, in accordance with state law. The law also states there is no need for another inspection on a property unless there is a complaint or additional construction.

According to Smith, municipalities are not allowed to enforce a stricter building code than the state building code.

Both the mayor and mayor pro tem believe decks for these types of oceanfront homes should be built to hold more weight because of the amount of people who rent out the properties for vacation.

According to Williamson Realty, the home where the deck collapse happened has six bedrooms and six bathrooms, sleeping 19 people.

Smith said at the next council meeting, town leaders plan to talk about what can be done to make these structures safer. They're considering asking state leaders to allow local municipalities to have more power when it comes to creating and enforcing building codes.

Workers with Deans Home Improvement were at the house Wednesday to clean debris. One employee said they hope to have building permits soon so they can rebuild the deck by Saturday.

The investigation into the cause of the collapse continues.

Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this report.