by John Bacon, USA TODAY
MIAMI, FL – Authorities in Miami were trying to determine Friday why a crowded deck at a MIami sports bar collapsed as fans cheered for the Miami Heat basketball team playing, tossing dozens of fans into Biscayne Bay.
Lt. Eugene Germain, spokesman for Miami Dade Fire Rescue, told CNN on Thursday that 33 people were injured, 24 of whom were taken to hospitals. Two of the injuries were considered serious, Germain said.
North Bay Village Mayor Connie Leon Kreps promised a thorough investigation.
Germain said scores of people were watching the basketball game on TVs at Shuckers Waterfront Grill when part of the deck collapsed into shallow waters of Bay. He said he had no information indicating prior problems with the deck, and that the fire department makes annual safety inspections.
Crystal Infante, 23, told the The Miami Herald she was on the deck eating and watching the game with a friend when the deck, about five feet over the water, collapsed.
“There was just a crack, and then we were in the water,” Infante told the Herald. “It was really hard to get out, and you couldn’t find anyone.”
Infante told the Herald the water was shallow enough for them to stand, but it was difficult for them to get out because wood, umbrellas, tables, chairs and other debris surrounded them.
Chris Volz, 39, told the newspaper he was sitting at the western end of the bar, about 10 feet from where the deck gave way.
“Everybody’s watching the game. It sounded like a freight train, then everyone was gone. The deck went down like a V.”
Many people seemed in shock, with cuts and gashes on their faces. Eric Williams, 42, of Atlanta described the scene as “pandemonium,” with people scrambling to get out.
Divers searched the waters as helicopters overhead shined spotlights onto the scene, and authorities said later that crews had completed their search and everyone was accounted for.
“We did an extensive search and after completing the search, we didn’t find any other victims,” Germain said.
The accident occurred around 9:45 p.m. ET as customers were watching the Miami Heat play the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat won in San Antonio to tie the series at 2-2.
North Bay Village is a small island 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. Though not as trendy as South Beach, North Bay Village is one of the many tourist spots in and around Miami where locals and visitors converge.
“This is a real tragedy,” Kreps 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.”