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75 Hurt in Terrace Collapse in Ohio

July 2, 2000

MIDDLE BASS ISLAND, Ohio (AP) _ A concrete terrace loaded with tourists collapsed at an island winery in Lake Erie, killing one person and injuring 75, authorities said.

The collapse Saturday left a hole in the floor of the lakefront terrace at Lonz Winery’s century-old main building, a fortresslike mansion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Engineers who inspected the terrace Saturday night believe the collapse was caused by a structural problem, not by overloading, Ottawa County Sheriff Craig Emahiser said.

``I heard a crack and I just dropped,″ said Wade Weaver, 23, who was on the terrace. ``It was like sliding down a hill. I kept thinking it was like an earthquake hit.″

``It just came loose and gave way,″ said Steve Ernst, 31, who watched the floor crumble and drop. He said people ``pulled doors off hinges to create backboards″ to carry the injured out the door of a wine cellar where the victims and rubble fell. The cellar was unoccupied but contained casks.

Mark Reighard, 29, of Columbus, died at the scene, Put-In-Bay Police Chief Jim Lang said. Jim Greer, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency, put the number of injured at 75.

Eight of the most seriously injured were flown by helicopter to St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. Four were in stable condition, three were in serious condition and one was critical but stable, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday morning.

More than 40 others were treated and released from area hospitals.

Lang said about 100 people were on the 25-by-20-foot terrace where the 4-inch-thick floor collapsed. He said it fell 16 to 18 feet down.

Emergency personnel were called in from as far away as Cleveland, 60 miles away. The Coast Guard said a 47-foot motor lifeboat was at the scene. Lang said more than 40 people were flown off the island and the rest left by boat.

The winery was closed after a dog searched the rubble and found no additional victims, Lang said.

The Lonz Winery sits on about 120 acres of a Lake Erie island about 6 miles from the mainland. Only about 40 people live on Middle Bass Island but as many as 1,500 visitors stay during busy summer weekends.

George Prusock, 25, was transported to Magruder Memorial Hospital in Port Clinton. He said he was attending a bachelor party at the winery when the terrace collapsed, injuring both his legs and trapping a friend.

``It was our buddy’s last hurrah before he got married,″ Prusock said. ``The next thing you know, the floor collapsed and he’s under the pop machine. The floor just dropped. Nobody had any time to react.″

The young adults who party at the winery buy bottles of wine there and carry them to picnic tables, where they socialize as a band plays ’80s and ’90s hits. Famous as a winery in the 19th century, the site hasn’t been used for growing grapes for more than 20 years.

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