June 14, 2013

Cause sought for deck collapse at Miami-area sports bar

By midday Friday, only one person remained hospitalized after about 100 people were dumped into shallow Biscayne Bay while cheering on the Heat in the NBA Finals.

By CURT ANDERSON / The Associated Press

NORTH BAY VILLAGE, Fla. — Investigators began examining a twisted pile of concrete, metal and wood on Friday to determine why a waterfront deck at a popular sports bar collapsed into shallow Biscayne Bay, injuring two dozen people gathered to cheer the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

click image to enlarge

In this photo provided by WSVN-TV, divers search the water after a deck collapse at Shuckers Bar & Grill in Miami Thursday night. The deck collapsed during the NBA Finals on Thursday night, sending dozens of patrons into the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.

AP / WSVN-TV, Tom Tuckwell

click image to enlarge

Officials begin their inspection of the outdoor deck that collapsed at Shuckers Bar and Restaurant in North Bay Village, Fla., on Friday.

The Associated Press

Authorities estimated about 100 people were on the deck at Shuckers Bar & Grill when a support on one end apparently gave way, causing the deck to buckle in the middle and drop about 8 feet into the bay. The scene Friday was a tangle of partly submerged green plastic chairs, tables, umbrellas, and even flip-flops and cell phones lost in the chaos of the night before.

"It was a shock," said Martin Torres, 42, who was in South Florida from Los Angeles to board a cruise. "People were yelling. Nobody knew. People came out all wet. They were crying. For a while, nobody knows what's going on."

Miami-Dade Fire Chief David Downey said 24 people were taken to area hospitals. Many had cuts and bruises, though one person suffered a fracture. By midday Friday, only one person remained hospitalized with unknown injuries.

Structural engineer Morgan Villanueva, whose firm contracts with various cities for engineering services, said when he arrived to inspect the debris that it appeared a main support at one end gave way for unknown reasons. It wasn't immediately clear Friday how old the deck was and when it was last inspected or renovated. Shuckers bills itself as a "locals favorite for over 20 years."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in San Antonio – where his team is preparing for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Spurs – that he had been there many times.

"It's a great venue. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it and how it happened. But all of our thoughts are with those people, and we hope everybody's OK," Spoelstra said. "That's really scary and I hope it doesn't change people's thoughts on going to those type of venues because they can be fun as long as they're safe."

Villanueva said fans cheering the game could have had an impact on the deck's structural integrity, particularly if it was already weakened.

"If people were excited and jumping, it's going to be an additional load," he said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Griselle Marino said the main restaurant has a safe capacity of 74 people, but rules for the deck would be enforced separately by North Bay Village officials. They said they were still gathering information Friday about any inspections.

Marino said Shuckers passed a fire safety inspection in January. She said it's largely up to restaurant and bar operators to enforce capacity limits.

"We can't be policing every restaurant," Marino said.

North Bay Village is a small series of islands in Biscayne Bay with a strip of restaurants, hotels, houses and condos that is attached by causeways to the mainland and also to Miami Beach.

North Bay Village Mayor Connie Leon Kreps went to the scene afterward and said she was grateful that no one had died.

"This is a real tragedy," she said. "Shuckers has been here for many, many years. People come from all around to enjoy the view and the food. This is really unfortunate."

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