Deck Collapses In Sharon

Emergency Personnel load a person into an ambulence after a deck collapsed at a home on River Road in Sharon, Vt., on July 4, 2013. 

Valley News- Sarah Priestap

Emergency Personnel load a person into an ambulence after a deck collapsed at a home on River Road in Sharon, Vt., on July 4, 2013. Valley News- Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

Sharon — Partygoers had set off only a few fireworks when an attached deck collapsed in a backyard of a River Road home last night around 9 p.m., injuring more than a dozen people and cutting short an Independence Day celebration.

Sharon Fire Captain Nathan Potter said the victims were transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, but none suffered life-threatening injuries.

Two people were trapped underneath the collapsed structure, he said. One was removed quickly, but the other woman had to be cut from the tangle of wooden planks.

More than 20 people — friends, family and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — had gathered at the home early in the evening for barbecue and water games. As 9 o’clock neared, the fireworks came out. Ten to 15 adults and children gathered on the wooden deck — at least 12 feet above the ground, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide — to watch the homemade light show, Potter said.

The middle of the deck caved in, a clean break perpendicular to the beige house with red shutters.

“It just all of a sudden gave way,” said Heidi Gilman, a neighbor and close friend of the homeowners.

Those on the deck slid toward the ground, some between the house and the remaining deck structure as it broke away from the siding.

A patio table and chairs landed on top of the people who had fallen, but didn’t break. A young man — a boy scout — grabbed onto a hot barbecue grill before it could burn any of the party attendees sprawled in the deck’s remnants.

Potter said he did not think the collapse was caused by ground saturation from the rains that drenched the Upper Valley this, but he wasn’t sure what prompted the snap.

“Without looking at the structure, I don’t dare say what caused the collapse,” he said.

Mark Jackson, a friend of the homeowner’s from Maine who builds homes for a living, said he thought the two support beams that ran underneath the deck, parallel to the ground and perpendicular from the house, broke away from each other. This, and the fact that the wood had probably been weakened from the rain water, explains the clean break, he said.

Emergency personnel from Sharon, White River, Hartford and South Royalton assisted in the recovery efforts.

Just after 10:15 last night, emergency responders left the scene and the remaining attendees assessed the damage to the deck. Beneath the wooden planks was a lone sandal, a box of sparklers and a baby bottle.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Jackson said.

Katie Mettler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com or 603-727-3234.