New Jersey

‘A Horrible Movie,' Witness Recounts Terrifying Wildwood Deck Collapse That Injured Children, Firefighters

The collapse happened around 6 p.m. Saturday in Wildwood, New Jersey

What to Know

  • Multiple people, including children, were injured when three decks collapsed in Wildwood, New Jersey.
  • Witnesses reported seeing people eating dinner shortly before the accident.
  • Firefighters were among those injured.

The debris is clearing at the site of a deck collapse at a Wildwood condominium complex. But for Gail Ivins and others who witnessed it, the memories of the terrifying accident continue to linger.

"It was like watching a horrible movie but it was right in front of our face," Ivins told NBC10. "And all we could do was think of getting down there and helping and getting people out of there.

Multiple levels of decking attached to a seven-unit building on Baker Avenue collapsed around 6 p.m. Saturday. The second and third floor front decks of the multifamily condo "suffered a complete 'pancake' type collapse trapping multiple people," Wildwood Fire Department Chief Daniel Speigel said in a press release.

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It was unclear how many people were on or under the decks at the time, but authorities said victims were quickly removed from the rubble. Dozens of witnesses sprung into action to help pull out anyone who was trapped under the debris, including three small children.

More than 20 people were injured in the collapse though no deaths were reported. One patient was airlifted to a trauma center and another was transported by ground to a trauma center.

Cape May Regional Health System spokeswoman Susan Staeger said Sunday that 19 of 21 patients were treated and released, including the three children taken there. AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center's trauma center reported receiving three patients, but spokeswoman Jennifer Tornetta said family members had asked that no information be released.

Firefighters were also among the victims. They were in town for the annual New Jersey Firemen's Convention, which attracts thousands of current and former firefighters to Wildwood. 

"Those guys were in shock," witness Diane Hollenbeck said. "They were crying and bloody and they said, 'I'm not going in the ambulance until all my men are accounted for.'"

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.

"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," Hollenbeck said. "I saw two women running and screaming. It was horrible."

On Monday, Wildwood Fire Deputy Chief Ernie Troiano III told NBC10 investigators were still trying to determine what caused the collapse as well as the amount of people on the decks.

"The investigation is still ongoing," he said.

The witnesses said the second floor fell first and Ivins believes no more than ten people were on that level at the time of the collapse, including a baby.

"They were sitting," Ivins, whose summer home is located next to the building, told NBC10. "They weren't partying. They weren't jumping up and down. It wasn't overcrowded."

City records reveal the building was originally constructed in the 1930s before being renovated in 2005 and converted into condo units that were each sold to individual buyers.

"I'm worried for other houses like this," Ivins said. "There are a lot of old homes that were redone. There's a lot of old decks in this town."

Deputy Chief Troiano said he wasn't aware of any prior issues with the building. The city is taking a close look at decks on other older buildings in Wildwood, according to the mayor.

Wildwood Police are still blocking people from driving down Baker Avenue as crews continue to brace part of the damaged building's roof.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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