Updated 3:12 pm, Tuesday
Approximately 20 people attending a Fourth of July party in Edgartown Monday night were standing on the second-story deck of an Edgartown house when it suddenly collapsed, injuring eight people and triggering an Island-wide call for medical assistance.
Edgartown was crowded with people, and the annual fireworks display had just kicked off, when police and emergency medical personnel received the call at 9:10 pm of a deck collapse at 37 Mill Hill Road with numerous injuries, some serious, Edgartown Police Sergeant Joel DeRoche said, triggering an Island-wide mass casualty incident.
Ambulances from Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury responded to the location. Tri-Town Ambulance staged at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport in order to be ready to respond to any other emergencies.
Sergeant DeRoche said the timing of the call was fortuitous because the roads were relatively traffic-free. “It was a lot better than if the call had come in after the fireworks ended,” he said. “We were able to get the ambulances that we needed in a relatively timely and orderly fashion.”
The task of getting the injured to the hospital was complicated because a one-lane, narrow road with no turnoff shoulders leads to the house. “It was one ambulance in and one ambulance out,” Sergeant DeRoche said. A portion of Clevelandtown Road was closed to traffic during the emergency.
It all went smoothly, Sergeant DeRoche said, a testament to the planning and training between the police, fire, and ambulance departments.
Seven patients were released from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, according to hospital spokesman Rachel Vanderhoop. One patient was transported via ambulance to Boston.
Ms. Vanderhoop said the hospital activated its trauma team and was well staffed for the emergency because of the holiday.
The Edgartown fire chief and building inspector were on scene Monday morning to examine the collapsed deck.
Edgartown building inspector Leonard Jason said that the homeowner was on the porch when it collapsed, and she described the incident as happening in slow motion. The porch did appear to be up to code, Mr. Jason said.
“I certainly think some of the nails were rusted,” he said, “but none of the wood splintered. You just can’t put that many people on there.”
Mr. Jason estimated that the porch was approximately 8.5 feet off the ground, and he has heard that anywhere from 25 to 27 people were on it when it collapsed.
“I’ve been working here in Edgartown for 30 years, and it’s the first time it’s happened,” he said.
Mr. Jason said people need to be aware of their surroundings and how much weight a structure might support.
“You can’t put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5-pound bag,” Mr. Jason said. “I asked the homeowner how everyone was doing, and she said they were fine. That’s the important thing.”
The 3,013-square-foot, four-bedroom house was built in 1998, and is owned by Karen E. Zingg, according to town records.