Deck collapse underscores dangers of overcrowding

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A deck collapse Monday night in Millbrook left several teens injured. It happened at a graduation party. As we move into the summer season, this incident underscores the need to make sure decks aren't overloaded.

"All of a sudden there was a crack and the ground fell out from under us," said Caroline Crisp, who attended the party for St. James seniors. "We just toppled down 12 or 15 feet however high the deck was up and we just hit the ground really fast."

The homeowner tells WSFA 12 News he let a friend use his house for his daughter's graduation party, and was told only about 12 people would be there.  More than 50 showed up to the party. Crisp estimates about 30 to 40 people were on the deck at the time.

Some students reported back, foot and leg injuries.

WSFA 12 News consulted with an expert about the issue of deck collapses. Other cases like the collapse of a balcony at Arbor Station Apartments in December and a recent deck collapse in Gulf Shores are examples of the dangers of people overloading decks.

"When people get on decks, they all tend to get in the same spot," said Johan Beumer with Allsouth Construction.  "30 or 40 people spaced evenly on a deck is usually not as big a problem as 30 to 40 people standing in one place on a deck and that's usually what will cause a collapse."

Beumer said people frequently underestimate the strength of their decks. He recommends people consult with an engineer if they are unsure. Experts also recommend inspecting decks at least once a year.

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