Victims recall Shuckers Bar & Grill deck collapse

North Bay Village restaurant deck last inspected in 2011, records show


NORTH BAY VILLAGE, Fla. – People recounted what happened when the deck at Shuckers Bar & Grill collapsed into Biscayne Bay during Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Fifteen people were hospitalized when the deck of the North Bay Village restaurant collapsed. The incident happened during a Miami Heat watch party at the restaurant. At least two people suffered critical injuries, including Flavia Ellemberger.

"This cut right here was bleeding some much that I was full of blood so I don't see nothing," said Ellemberger, a regular at the restaurant. "I find myself with a table on top, an umbrella, my leg, a chair, in the water."

RELATED: Piers not regularly inspected

"We had a wonderful dinner and we were talking about how beautiful it was and we were living the dream -- and then in an instant, it just went black and we started freefalling, falling backwards," said Bill Ahren. "After we stopped freefalling, I grabbed Selina and covered her head and waited."

"At first, he couldn't find me," said Selina Mills.

"I could hear her but I couldn't see her and we had stopped falling, debris was all over, and I managed to grab her up," he replied.

The North Bay Village Police Department believes a problem with the structure caused the collapse. The collapse revealed an apparently corroded concrete framing and rusted rebar of the 40-year-old, 120-foot deck.

"It's obvious that there was some sort of structural incident that occurred," said North Bay Village Police Chief Bob Daniels. "We were out earlier on the Marine Patrol vessel to get a closer look with the engineers."

Records found at North Bay Village City Hall included blueprints showing new pilings and decking dated May 2009.

"I understand they were working on it. There was a plan to rebuild," said Rich Sena, a former manager at Shuckers.

Sena said loose wooden planks were constantly an issue there, and it became more difficult to screw them back down.

"It wouldn't stick to anything," he said. "The bit would just keep spinning. The screw would spin and there was nothing to grab on to. It just felt like there was nothing underneath to hold on to."

The new deck wasn't built and the last inspection report in 2012 includes it in a general sign-off of the entire building as structurally sound.

"Even if there was 100 people, as reported that were on the deck at that time, that's well within the margin of the capacity of that deck," said Daniel.

Miami-Dade police also released 911 calls made when the deck collapsed.

"Oh my God, the thing just collapses in the water," said one caller. "The whole thing just collapsed. There's people in the water. Please!"

LISTEN: 911 calls (Some graphic language): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |