"We're lucky that no one was seriously injured. It was a quick, sudden collapse, and the students fell right away."
Every year since 1971 students from Sister Catholic School Rosary High School in Fullerton, California participate in "Red and Gold," a musical theatre challenge involving the entire student body.
After six weeks of preparation, students divide into two teams (Red and Gold) and compete in categories such as choral, dance, drill, drama, fashion, media, historian, props, publicity, script, stage tech, and athletic trainers.
This year the event took place in the auditorium of Servite High School, an all-boys school. On Saturday night the room was packed with over 400 parents, students, faculty members, and alumni from both schools.
Although always lively, the event this year came to a climax when an extension of the wooden stage collapsed in the middle of a performance and students fell 5 feet.
"Early investigations suggest the front of the stage gave out due to weight," said Lt. Tim Schmidt of the Anaheim Police Department.
Approximately 250 females were dancing on the stage at the time. 30-40 students were rushed to nearby hospitals with minor injuries. 24 suffered moderate injuries, including broken bones.
Officials are now reviewing documents to see if there were weight restrictions in place for the stage. The investigation is expected to take two weeks.
“It’s a very nice, well-maintained building,” Schmidt said. “But clearly there was way too much weight."
A female student who was on stage when the incident happened said, "We were all jumping, having fun, we've done it five times before, and then all the sudden the girls in front of me just disappeared," Sabrina Lee said. "I don't know what happened. All I knew was I turned around and ran."
Another witness said everyone was "in shock."
After the collapse, Rosary principal Judy Luttrel posted a statement on the school's website: "We ask that you continue to pray for our students. We thank you all, the Servite community, and the responders for their calm assistance."
On Monday the school updated their webpage with this announcement: "All injured students have been treated for minor to moderate injuries at area hospitals and were released. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the partial collapse. We appreciate the support shown by community members and request that they continue to keep our students, parents and faculty members in their thoughts and prayers."
Servite High School was founded in 1958. Its sister school, Rosary, opened in 1965.
Image via YouTube