Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pay Dirt: Starfield Concert Goes to Hell

Floor collapsed 'like an elevator' at B.C. church during concert: witnesses

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Witnesses say excited rock fans were urged to stop jumping up and down in a B.C. church before a large section of the floor collapsed and the lighting system fell from the ceiling.

More than 40 people were injured at a concert at Abbotsford's Central Heights Church Friday night when the floor gave way.

The collapse people in the crowd falling several metres into the basement below.
Two people were transferred to hospital in Vancouver, and at least one of them is reported to have suffered critical injuries.

Seventeen-year-old Felicia Daase says she was farther back from the stage than the area that collapsed.

She says the band was telling fans who were jumping to the music to stop just before it happened.

Daase says the floor collapsed "like an elevator," landing in the basement, and a few seconds later a large lighting and speaker system fell from the ceiling and landed on audience members.
Rob Neiman, a 42-year-old from Abbotsford who was also at the concert, says after it happened he looked down into the hole and saw bodies laying on the floor and dozens of people scrambling among the wreckage.

Fraser Health spokesman David Plug says the injured arrived either on their own or by ambulance at four area hospitals.

All were treated and discharged except for two who were sent to Vancouver General Hospital for more specialized care, he says.

The condition of the two people transported to Vancouver was unavailable.

Police said about 1,000 youths were at the church when a large area in front of the stage gave way, sending people in the crowd falling several metres into the basement below.

Head pastor Chris Douglas told Vancouver radio station CKNW that the hall can hold up to 1,500 people.

He says plans for Sunday services were proceeding as usual.

Most of the patients treated in hospital suffered minor injuries.

Const. Casey Vinet of the Abbotsford police said every available officer responded, as did some from neighbouring communities.

When they arrived at the scene, they saw a hole in the floor about seven metres wide.

"It was very busy, certainly as word got out parents, friends and others attended the area as well," he said

One witness says people were walking away with "blood all over."

When news of the collapse first reached local health officials, they were told to expect mass casualties, but the actual number of injured was far lower than feared.

Plug said the hospitals were able to cope with the load.

"Some staff heard about it on the radio and came in to help and they've now been sent home," Plug said. "The waiting room is pretty empty."

All available Abbotsford police, local RCMP and ambulance crews were dispatched to the scene, Vinet said.

Vinet said detectives will now try to determine what caused the collapse.

"We've also called out forensic identification services, who will look at examining the scene, look at producing a diagram, taking photos and that sort of thing," he said.