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Precede DALE CITY, Va.

January 15, 1996

WHITMAN, Mass. (AP) _ An awning outside a roller rink collapsed Sunday evening under the weight of ice and snow, just minutes before about 250 people, mostly children, were to leave.

Four women were injured, including a 34-year-old who was flown to Boston City Hospital. The others suffered less serious injuries, but officials would not release any details.

The skating session ended at 8:30 p.m., about 10 minutes after the collapse. ``It could have been a much bigger tragedy,″ said police Sgt. Scott Benton.

Police had been called to the rink, about 20 miles south of Boston, before the 12-foot-high awning collapsed because of concerns about parking. Lt. David Bouldry said he heard a crash and ran to the front of the building.

``I saw a woman partially trapped. I had fear for a lot of people under there,″ he said.

Bouldry and others freed the four trapped women from the debris.

Building inspector Carl Gildert said the rink had been inspected last year and found safe. The building won’t be reopened until after a full inspection.

The snow from last week’s blizzard has overwhelmed large roofs from Virginia into New England, and as far west as Ohio.

About a third of the roof of a Service Merchandise store in Ontario, Ohio, collapsed Sunday, injuring one woman, authorities said. The 58-year-old woman was being treated at a hospital emergency room, but her injuries were not disclosed.

The collapse of a supermarket roof Friday at North Massapequa, N.Y., injured 10 people. In Pennsylvania, the collapse of part of a lawn and garden center in Berks County killed one person Friday, and a falling barn roof beam killed a woman in Beaver County.

In Virginia, larger stores reopened Sunday at Potomac Mills Mall, a day after it was closed because the roof was sagging under the weight of snow.

Prince William County fire officials and structural engineers said the snow made metal beams sag in two places in the 1.65 million-square-foot discount mall, causing the roof to droop about 3 feet.

The mall, one of the nation’s biggest, loses about $1 million in sales each day it is closed, said Ken Digby, executive vice president of the Mills Corp., which owns the complex. The mall, about 25 miles south of Washington, also was closed Friday because of bad weather.

The rest of the 220 stores were to reopen Monday.