St. Johns Co. deputies: 4 injured in deck collapse

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Two children and their grandparents suffered minor injuries when a deck they were standing on collapsed at a beachside rental home in South Ponte Vedra Beach near the south end of Guana River State Park, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

A neighbor who witnessed the collapse called 911 at 9:45 a.m. Thursday and reported the victims fell about 9 feet to the ground at the home in the 2800 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard.

LISTEN: 911 call for deck collapse

A St. Johns County Fire-Rescue crew responded and transported both adults and one child to Flagler Hospital, but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

The grandmother of the children who fell had injuries to her leg and hip, but it appeared everyone else was going to be OK.

The family, who was renting the beachfront home, was on the deck together leaning against the railing to take a family photo when it collapsed.

"I just remember hearing everyone start screaming," Kyle Lutz said. "It was really loud. I heard the deck fall."

Lutz calls it a terrible end to his annual family vacation in Florida. He said his parents were just about to take a family picture with his two daughters, ages 2 and 3, when suddenly the deck underneath them began to crumble.

"By the time we came out here, they were all on the ground and the neighbors came over and were helping," Lutz said.

"Our laundry room is down there and I was standing out there, and I heard this cracking sound," neighbor Lindsey Haines said. "And I looked and literally in slow motion -- there was a grandma and a grandfather and two kids, I think 2 and 3, and I think they were holding one of them -- and in slow motion the deck literally just pulled away from the house, and you just saw them falling backwards and everything just coming down."

County code enforcement officials arrived shortly after the accident and deemed the house unsafe to live in for now because the only way to get inside is up the wooden stairs.

"This falls in my opinion in the homeowners' responsibility category," said Howard White, a county building official. "Homeowners should do their due diligence on stair decks, especially when there's a large number of people gathering on them."

Officials said the portion of the deck that collapsed appears to be an add-on to the original deck, which was built in 1975. But he said the county doesn't have any record of the homeowner applying for a permit, so county officials don't know how old the deck is.

It's unclear where the homeowner is, but at some point, county inspectors said he will be headed back to the area.

The family who was staying at the home plans to leave as soon as possible and said they will likely be contacting an attorney.

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