7 hurt when deck falls during holiday cookout at Cockeysville home

Man suffers burns to face and arms from grill coals

June 01, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Seven people were injured yesterday evening during a Memorial Day cookout when a deck at a Cockeysville townhouse collapsed, pinning partygoers under debris and forcing the cook's face into hot coals, Baltimore County fire officials said.

The wooden deck, which was built in February, collapsed shortly before 6 p.m., sending nine people tumbling 12 feet to the ground in back of the house in the first block of Longmont Court.

The cook, identified by the homeowner as Bob Liechtenberg, suffered second-degree burns on his face and arms from the hot coals of the grill. He was being treated last night at the burn center at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Four people were treated at Sinai Hospital, including an elderly woman who suffered a possible broken leg. Two were taken to Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Fire officials said all but the cook and the elderly woman were expected to be released last night.

Marybeth Eibl, who lives across the street, joined about 20 neighbors who rushed to help stunned guests climb out of the debris and lift the side of the deck, which was pinning the feet of Bob Porter, 62, of Baltimore.

Scanning the overturned grill, plastic cups, paper plates, hot dogs and spilled condiments on the grass behind the townhouse, William Jensen, who was on the deck but was not injured, said it was fortunate that no one was killed.

Capt. Michael Robinson, a county Fire Department spokesman, said officials are unsure why the deck collapsed. Investigators will take a close look at how the 12-by-14-foot platform was supported.

Robinson said he thinks the code requires such a deck to have its foundation posts set in concrete, but he was unsure last night whether the deck was properly built. He also could not say how many people the deck should have been able to support.

The cookout began about 3 p.m., when a group of friends showed up for the Memorial Day cookout Leslie Scott said she had wanted to hold for 27 years but couldn't because she lacked space at her Lutherville apartment.

Scott moved to the townhouse in November. "I was in the kitchen when I heard this crash and people screaming, and I ran out," she said.

Scott paid $2,695 to have the deck built four months ago. She said the company that built it, Decked Out of Phoenix, completed the project within five days of her signing the contract and erected the structure in a day and a half.

"I feel angry," Scott said. "A police officer said [the contractors] didn't put the deck posts in concrete, and it was just in the dirt."

The collapse occurred moments after Sean McGrain, 12, had retrieved a trampoline from a shed under the deck. He was playing nearby when he saw the deck fall and rushed over to see whether his father, Mickey McGrain, had been injured.

"He was sitting right next to the grill, and some charcoal fell on his arm and burned him," Sean said. "I felt real scared, and I couldn't see my dad, but he shouted out, `I'm all right. I'm all right.' "

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