Nails deteriorated by years of exposure to the sand, salt, and moisture from the ocean gave way, causing a deck collapse that hurt 24 members of an extended family as they posed for a picture at a rented beachfront home in Emerald Isle, NC, on Saturday night, authorities say. The deck was likely up to code when the house was built in 1986, but the nearly 30-year-old nails simply fell apart under the weight of the people standing on a small part of the deck, Emerald Isle's town manager says. The ages of those injured after falling more than 10 feet to the ground ranged from 5 to 94, and five of them remain in the hospital, with two still in critical condition, he says.
The injuries ranged from minor cuts and abrasions to more severe injuries that appeared to include broken bones, the local fire chief says, adding that "it's been about 10 years since we've had one of these so it's not an everyday occurrence." A neighbor tells NBC News that the scene was "horrific." She says she came back from the beach just after the accident and saw a "whole bunch of people just on the ground laying on top of the planks from the deck—and you could tell two of them were majorly hurt. It was tragic. It was truly, truly, truly sad to watch. There were kids lined up on the grass watching their parents and grandparents." (Dry rot was blamed for a deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley last month.)