Builder of collapsed deck got no permit, official says

Baltimore County faults construction in accident

June 02, 1999|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

The contractor who built a deck that collapsed during a Memorial Day cookout in Cockeysville failed to obtain a permit for the project, bypassing a required inspection that could have revealed the construction problem that caused the collapse, Baltimore County officials said yesterday.

The deck collapsed because it was not properly anchored to the back of the townhouse, said John M. Altmeyer, supervisor of code inspection and enforcement.

Altmeyer said the contractor, Decked Out, was issued a violation notice yesterday -- with a $1,000 fine -- for failing to obtain the permit.

The deck's collapse sent partygoers tumbling 12 feet to the ground. Seven people were taken to hospitals, including a man whose face was forced into a grill's hot coals, fire officials said. Leslie Scott, the owner of the home, said one guest might have suffered a broken ankle.

Altmeyer said the deck collapsed because lag screws designed to attach to joists or other solid wood in the house instead were attached to thin sheathing.

"When they got people on the deck and they started to move around, it just fell over," Altmeyer said. He said inspectors probably would have been suspicious because the screws were set into particle board and could have demanded proof that they were attached to something stronger.

Cary H. Lyon, owner of Decked Out of Phoenix, said yesterday that he failed to spot the mistake when reviewing the work of his subcontractors.

"I just didn't pick up on it," he said, adding that he is baffled that his subcontractors did not notice the screws were not in solid wood.

Lyon initially referred to a "gray area" that might have excused him from needing a permit to replace an existing deck. He then said the job "was just done so quickly, I didn't have time to get a permit. But no excuses. I should have gotten the permit."

Lyon said the collapse caused a sleepless night and added, "I've done 700 to 1,000 decks, and I've never had this happen."

He said he will rebuild the deck. "I'm taking responsibility for everything," he said. "I'm going to make everything right."

Maryland Home Improvement Commission records show that Decked Out has been licensed since 1994. The company has been the subject of one complaint for "abandonment" of a job. The project was completed, and the complaint was declared resolved.

In February, Lyon's company was paid $2,695 to build a 12-by-14-foot deck for Scott, who said a deck attached to the house when she bought it last year was torn down for the replacement.

Scott said she selected Decked Out after several estimates.

Scott, who was in her kitchen when the deck collapsed, said she likes to drink her morning coffee on her deck. "Even if I rebuilt it, it just makes you leery about going out on the deck," she said.

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