CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A celebration of reggae music and the final days of this year’s ski season took a downward spiral when four people were sent to the hospital with serious injuries after a fire escape collapsed at a popular local pub.
“We’re not sure how many people were on it,” Chase McKendry, co-owner of The Rack, said. “Everything was built to code and updated and inspected.”
Chief Scott Nichols of the Carrabassett Valley Police Department said that the small fire escape collapsed under the weight of too many people just after midnight Sunday. He described the victims as “Reggae Festival revelers,” who were at Sugarloaf ski resort for the annual weekend-long spring event.
Nichols told the Sun Journal on Sunday night that the bar was very busy Saturday due to the festival. He said several people hanging out on the second floor of the restaurant, which is like a deck that looks down on the first floor, sneaked out a side door onto the fire escape. The narrow deck gave way under the weight of all the people and collapsed about 15 feet.
McKendry, who co-owns the local restaurant with Olympic snowboarder Seth Wescott and Jeff Strunk, said that reports from witnesses varied. While Nichols and investigators estimated that about 10 people fell during the accident, McKendry said some witnesses said there could have been as many as 17 people gathered on the 4- by 8-foot deck at the top of the fire escape.
Nichols said it was hard to get an accurate count because several people were checked out quickly and left the scene before talking to investigators. Four people were taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital with broken bones and lacerations. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.
McKendry said a staff member was posted at the bottom of the stairs outside the restaurant during the night because people were sneaking up the stairs onto the decking outside the second-floor fire escape door, but staff were unable to reach the group in time. He said there are large warning signs posted inside the second-floor door stating that it is a fire exit only and that an alarm sounds if the door is opened.
McKendry said the accident could have been worse had it not been for one of the cooks at the restaurant, who stopped people from closing the door immediately following the collapse. He said the door was the only thing holding up the roof over the fire escape, which would have collapsed onto the victims below.
McKendry also credited four EMTs who were at the restaurant Saturday night for immediately jumping into action and helping the victims. In addition to the Carrabassett Valley Police Department and Northstar, emergency personnel from the Carrabassett Valley and Kingfield fire departments also responded.
Nichols said the State Fire Marshals office is investigating for any possible code violations. McKendry said the restaurant also brought in an engineer this morning to review the accident.
“This is definitely an accident,” Nichols said. “People made some poor common-sense decisions. It just wasn’t built to hold a lot of people out there.”
The Rack reopened for business Sunday, but the second-floor deck is closed until the fire escape is repaired.
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Correction: The headline on this article has been updated to clarify that the pub is not owned or operated by Sugarloaf. In addition, an earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Seth Wescott as a skier; he is a snowboarder.