Twenty-two people were hospitalized after a two-story wooden deck collapsed in Wildwood, New Jersey on Saturday. The debris from the decks trapped and injured a number of people, including children and an infant. As of Sunday, two victims remain hospitalized.
The incident occurred at around 6 p.m. at an older condominium building on the 200 block of East Baker Avenue, right by the Wildwood boardwalk. Families were enjoying dinner on the beach-house balconies just before everything fell apart.
Wildwood Fire Department Chief Daniel Speigel described the calamity as a “complete ‘pancake’ type collapse” when the third story deck crumbled on top of the second. Another witness said she heard a loud noise and turned around to see the decks cave in on top of families. Two women jumped off the upper deck onto the street as it fell and ran away hysterically screaming. Another man on the bottom deck attempted to single-handedly hold up the fallen upper deck.
Thousands of retired and active firefighters were in town for the annual New Jersey State Firemen’s convention and parade. Many of them had been renting units in the building for years. Branchville Hose Company No. 1 Chief Jonathan Frato was among those in town for the conference. He was staying at the second-floor condo he and his family had been renting for five years, sitting on the second-floor deck after dinner and talking with friends and family.
“The next thing we knew, we ended up on the lower level, the upper level on top of us,” said Frato.
Immediately, those nearby began digging through wreckage and pulling people out from underneath. Firefighters in town for the convention accelerated rescue efforts immensely, and within one hour everyone had been transported to a hospital. Two victims were transported to a trauma center, one via helicopter. Three children were rescued from the debris as well. Luckily, no injuries were fatal.
So far, 19 patients have been treated and discharged from Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May, including the injured children.The patient that was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City is still in the hospital, as is another patient who was taken to a local trauma center in Cape May.
Between eight and ten Branchville firefighters and their families were among those injured in the collapse. Sussex County Fire Chiefs Association posted on their social media accounts that all but one of the members injured in the accident have been treated and released from the hospital.
Officials are unsure of what caused the incident, but members of the Wildwood construction office and fire department are working with engineers and building owners to secure an unstable roof.
Stephen Holihan, Esq.
Steve works as Of Counsel to Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
He is also a retired FDNY firefighter (LI-46) and 9/11 first responder. He continues to work closely with the firefighter community and helps firefigthers pro bono on a variety of legal matters.
In addition to working on three-quarter disability pensions he defends firefighters against Fire Department discipline charges.
He is also heavily involved in legal matters for firefighters and their families as it relates to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).