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N.J. Dance Floor Collapse Probed

November 26, 2001

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ROCHELLE PARK, N.J. (AP) _ A temporary dance floor that gave way over a swimming pool in a nightclub, injuring more than 50 people, may have been illegally installed, police said.

Authorities also said the Metro Lounge may have been overcrowded when the dance floor gave way around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, sending patrons into the water and sparking a brawl.

About 35 people were taken to area hospitals by ambulance and another 20 went to hospitals on their own, Police Chief Richard Zavinsky said.

An emergency medical technician who was treating injured patrons was also hospitalized after being punched during a melee that broke out in the parking lot after the club was evacuated.

Some people were knocked unconscious after the collapse and a few had head injuries, but all the injured had been released by Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

Police were investigating whether the club’s owners violated building codes by failing to obtain a permit to install the dance floor. The club’s attorney, Dennis Oury, said a permit was not needed because the floor was a portable structure, not a permanent one.

Oury also denied claims that the club was overcrowded, adding that club officials believe the floor gave way because of a structural defect. Fire Chief Sal Antista said the temporary floor was made of plywood and plexiglass with a steel framework and covered an in-ground pool.

``It was an unfortunate incident,″ Oury told The Record of Hackensack for Monday’s editions. ``Thank God no one was seriously injured, and we intend to get to the bottom of what happened.″

It was unclear how many people were on the dance floor when it collapsed. Zavinsky said more than 500 people attended the party at the nightclub, billed as a celebration for people with the astrological signs Scorpio and Sagittarius.

One witness said the floor gave way when a large number of people got up to dance at once.

``A song came on and everybody got on the floor and started dancing,″ said Joseph Williams, 37. ``I was in the middle of the crack. All you could hear was like ice cracking, like you when you pour hot water on ice.″

Williams said after the collapse, some people panicked, hyperventilated or fainted.

No one was arrested for the collapse or the fights, authorities said.

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